Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2011 Issue

The WOW Factor - Back of Beyond Books uses Giclee Process to Create Gigantic Grand Canyon Panorama

Sublimepanorama

Gigantic 17' x 90' view of Grand Canyon made possible using giclee digital technology.

Andy Nettell, proprietor of Back of Beyond Books (ABAA) was first introduced to giclee technology about five years ago by a local artist who was using it to make fine art prints. When a 40” Epson digital printer became available in his small Utah town the Western Americana specialist was intrigued.

 

“We sell a small number of giclee generated reproduction prints in the store.” One outstanding example comes from The Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District by Clarence Dutton under direction of John Wesley Powell. This monograph and atlas together could cost $8,000 to $12,000 for the original edition published in 1885.

 

“The most exciting opportunity with digital, for us, is the ability to take three prints from the report and present them as one continuous panorama measuring 17 inches tall x 90 inches wide. Nettell is referring to “The View from Point Sublime” which shows the south rim of the Grand Canyon as seen from the north rim by artist William Henry Holmes. In the original atlas appearance these prints are a triptych – three different views. With the digital technology he was able to remove the borders, splice plates together to form a 90" long stunning panorama which allows the viewer to see the scene as the artist drew it. 

 

Wallace Steger’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian actually tried to replicate the panorama in the book published in 1954, Nettell said. “It was maybe 10% of the size and looks, well, amateurish. I am not a big fan of most digital media,” he continued; “but in the case of fine prints it may be the only way for someone to enjoy the piece. As long as it is so stated (as a digital reproduction), I say, great!”

 

Nettell estimated that so far he’s made about ten reproductions. “We print them on demand as needed.  At 90" x 17" it still runs me $300 to print and they sell for about double that plus shipping. So it still is not cheap.” Printing this way does mean you don’t have to carry an inventory. It’s also an advantage that the image can be printed in various sizes to fit the space the buyer has in mind. ”Not everyone has 90 inches of display space or can afford what it costs to frame a piece over seven feet wide.

 

There’s no denying that the ability to print really large pieces gives the giclee process a certain WOW appeal. “Regarding BIG,” said John Kuenzig, “you could do BIG earlier too - just not cost effectively.” Kuenzig, the owner of Kuenzig Books (ABAA) is a science and technology specialist based in Massachusetts.

 

He pointed to “an interesting book by Rhodes and Streeter called ‘Before Photocopying, The Art & History of Mechanical Copying, 1780-1938’ which is a fascinating read and follows the evolution of photocopying. Giclee, he said, is just the "latest big thing" - it will over time popularize the ability to be an artist like the internet has popularized the ability to be a writer - by lowering the barrier to entry point.”

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