R.R. Donnelley Celebrates 100 Years of Publishing The Lakeside Classics
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Dec. 16, 2002 -- R.R. Donnelley celebrates a century-long tradition this month with the company's release of the 100th edition in The Lakeside Classics book series - an annual holiday gift to customers, employees, retirees, stockholders and friends of the company since 1903. The 100th edition of the Classics ventures into a culture, place and time never before covered in the American history series, the Spanish exploration of northern Mexico and the American Southwest in the mid-16th century. This year's selection is the "Narrative of the Coronado Expedition/Relación de la Jornada de Cíbola" by Pedro de Castañeda of Nájera. For the first time ever, an edition of the Classics is printed in two languages. Since the original memoir was written in the author's native Spanish, R.R. Donnelley published this year's edition in the original Spanish, as well as an English translation. "Seeing the book come to life each year makes me so proud, not only of the contributions our company has made to the written word, but of the tremendous quality of the books we produce," said James Donnelley, retired vice chairman of R.R. Donnelley and grandson of Thomas E. (T. E.) Donnelley. The Lakeside Classics was the creation of T. E. Donnelley, son of the company's founder, Richard Robert Donnelley. As T. E. Donnelley opened the array of holiday presents sent to his office in December 1902, one gift stood out from the rest - a set of straight-edged razors personalized with his name from an old college friend who was a member of the Gillette family. Struck by the connection between the manufacturer and the gift, T. E. Donnelley thought his printing company could also create a memorable gift with a direct association to his business. He decided a simple, well-designed book would make an appropriate holiday gift for his employees, business associates and customers. From this inspiration, the first edition of the Classics - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - was published for the holidays in 1903. Believed to be the longest continuously published American history book series, The Lakeside Classics have become an anticipated holiday reminder of the care with which R.R. Donnelley has produced the highest-quality printed materials since 1864. Many of the early volumes consisted of the speeches and writings of noted Americans. With the publication in 1911 of The Autobiography of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, the series took its present character - first-person narratives of American history, usually taken from books long out of print and not easily obtainable. Through the 1980s, the volumes emphasized history on the North American continent, including titles on the Civil War, the American Old West, early exploration and everyday frontier life. During the 1990s, as R.R. Donnelley extended its business internationally, the series expanded to include narratives by Americans with experiences beyond our borders. While not edited with the historian or serious student in mind, the Classics have benefited from a line of distinguished historians, university professors and directors of well-known historical societies who have served as editors. "To find, research and then breathe new life into books that have often been all but forgotten is a great joy," said Susan Levy, who has served as executive editor of the series for the past eight years. "In our most recent selections, we have made an effort to publish more diverse authors. In doing so, we have found some fascinating perspectives on American history, such as the memoirs of Elizabeth Keckley, an African-American who was Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker." One of T. E. Donnelley's original goals for the gift books was to convince people that high-quality books could be created through modern manufacturing processes. "If, in a modest way this volume conveys the idea that machine-made books are not a crime against art, and that books may be plain but good, and good though not costly, its mission has been accomplished," T. E. Donnelley wrote in his 1903 introduction to the first volume. While the finished books look much the same as they did a century ago, including its "pocket book" size, the process for creating them has changed with the times. Originally set by a monotype machine, R.R. Donnelley now creates the Classics using the most modern printing technology, resulting in pages that today go directly from computer to plate. And in 1999, R.R Donnelley began offering the text of the book as an e-book available free on the company website. For many years, R.R. Donnelley has produced the books at its manufacturing plant in Crawfordsville, Ind. Once a year, plant employees take a break from making commercial products ranging from textbooks to bibles to print and bind the Classics. Other company locations that assisted with the production of the book include: Allentown, Pa. (with composition and the e-book conversion); Lancaster, Pa. (image proofing); and worldwide distribution by R.R. Donnelley Logistics. Today the series remains a testament to the high-quality printed materials that R.R. Donnelley produces using the most up-to-date equipment in the printing industry. For the Chicago-based, Fortune 500 company, the books have long been an integral part of the holiday tradition. The company has already begun work on the 101st edition for next year. The Lakeside Classics are sent annually as a gift to customers, employees, company retirees and other special friends. The company never sells the books, but some find their way into the rare book market. A few volumes have become so extremely rare that collectors who own a complete set usually consider themselves most fortunate.