Founder of Cent Pages Editions
Portrait of Olivier Gadet. Photo credit: Philippe Millot.
Olivier Gadet is the founder of Cent Pages editions. For Made in Town, he talks about the foundation of his publishing house, his long-term collaboration with the book designer Philippe Millot and the manufacturing techniques he is reviving through his books aside from standardized publishing criteria. A selection of books is available on Made in Town Shop.
Pascal Gautrand: How did you get the idea to start a publishing house? Why making books than simply reading them or writing them ?
Olivier Gadet: I have inspired myself with Centopagine, a collection developed in Italy in the 70s by Italo Calvino which gathered in total about 70 items. Centopagine was an atypical collection format, with a blend of novels and short stories. This enabled Calvino to spread the idea that there were many things that were not addressed in the expected defined shapes. So I modestly borrowed this idea to create my publishing house, as a nod to this project.
I wanted to work on book projects that I liked and not necessarily fitting the usual standards. I was aware that I would not earn my living with only this activity so I thought I'd offer my services to other people who make books. And little by little, I began to get a lot of orders from museums, associations, public institutions. When I make my books, I do what I want and when I respond to a command, I adapt myself without half measures, trying to meet as much as possible the required specifications.
PG: Beyond the relationship with your clients, you also interact with a lot of other collaborators in order to make your books. How did you start working with book designer Philippe Millot?
OG: My books have not always been that special. At first it was a rather modest production, I only took care of the logistics: editing page sections, dealing with printing... After my first encounter with Philippe Millot in 1997, things have evolved a lot. We had as common client the Association for the Dissemination of French Thought (ADPF), an operator for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose role was to promote French culture abroad by publishing a number of works: books, exhibitions, posters.
The first book on which we worked on was L'Essai, about a series of French essays which has worked pretty well. We have learned to know each other and got along well. Then in 1999, I asked him to work on my own books. This is how we started on a first collection called "Cosaques" and then a collection that has long called "Rouges-Gorges" because the edges were painted in red.
PG: Did you use this collaboration with Philippe Millot as a pretext to find suppliers with particular know-how?
OG: The rare technics did interest me but I did not have the opportunity to use them so far. It has been a real exchange with Philippe Millot and the work for the ADPF was a kind of a laboratory. We have been looking for old know-how, some of which were almost extinct : embossing, hot stamping, screen printing, varnishes, relief, color edges. It took us to look out for people who have mastered these techniques which led me to travel throughout France. I love all kinds of effects. For example the book called Pas Maintenant by Cravan, we have worked on an addition of many techniques such as offset printing, screen printing, embossed printing, hot stamping.
PG: To make your books, how do you work with your partner workshops ?
OG: I really enjoy going on-site. The books actually come to life during the production phase : there may be unforeseen accidents, failures, deadends that must go out from and find other solutions. And it may be interesting to use. There are many decisions taken in the workshops.
For example for the book by Félix Fénéon we had several assembled books on a landscape format 17 by 11 cm. The contractor told us that it was not possible to do it in this format, so he could do it on a larger size and then cut it in the requested format. In order to avoid ending up with a 17 by 4 cm band with nothing on it, we used this space to print the Cent Pages editions yearly catalog. So we got two books instead of one. This is what I call a production accident, which we could happily anticipate and turn it to our advantage, because I happen to be in the workshop when this final step was operated. These are objects which exist as such and may also generate ideas for future developments. Sometimes printers find my requests very strange !
I like that idea that each object is unique. When I see what is done nowadays in the publishing industry, I feel like everyone wants the same object, the same things. All copies are identical with the same format and papers. It seeks to answer some form of economic standardization. This is not necessarily interesting to me.
PG: To conclude, do you personally have any manual activity?
OG: I sometimes make book models, some prototypes with paper and my cutter. And I always let some accidents happen in my production process!
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