Originally Published: 2021-10-21

I’ve been interested in printing my own personal copies of some public domain works for a while with a print-on-demand service, and wound up wanting some printed copies of the reference edition of Stobaeus for reading and working with. This seemed as good an opportunity as any to finally try my hand at it, and I went with Lulu since I had purchased some books for sale there before, where a seller had cleaned up public domain editions I wanted a physical copy of (I may make the corrected versions of my Stobaeus prints available for general purchase later on Lulu, and if I do so I’ll update here).

Extremely niche offering, but I’m about to try getting all five volumes of the (public domain) Wachsmuth & Hense Stobaeus printed for myself on Lulu as cheap paperbacks if anyone else on #ClassicsTwitter is interested https://t.co/Hf7zucpHFa

— Ryan Baumann (@ryanfb) October 14, 2021

Since the process of going from PDFs on the Internet Archive to something that’s actually printable with Lulu was not at all intuitive, I thought I would document what I had to do in case it could be of use to others. There may be some additional formatting steps I didn’t encounter, feel free to let me know if you have to do any additional workarounds.

The first issue with uploading the PDFs to Lulu was that I wanted to remove e.g. scans of the book cover and leading/trailing material that I didn’t want in the reprint. Luckily I’m already familiar with a tool for this; pdftk server is a command-line PDF manipulation tool. By using the cat command I could slice a range of pages, e.g.:

pdftk joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw.pdf cat 1-546 output joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw_vol_1.pdf

However, I still encountered various errors when uploading the PDF to Lulu. One was that embedded fonts were missing; this could either be solved by removing all embedded font references or by embedding referenced fonts into the PDF, I chose the latter. The easiest tool I found for this was Coherent PDF’s cpdf utility:

cpdf -gs $(which gs) -embed-missing-fonts joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw_vol_1.pdf -o joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw_vol_1_embed_fonts.pdf

The next issue was that I needed to size the PDF to the exact print size I wanted on Lulu. For this, you’ll need to reference the Lulu book creation guide PDF. For example, I decided I wanted a “US Trade” trim size: 152mm x 229mm. I needed to convert mm to pts for the cpdf command, so using an online converter I got 431pts x 649pts which I could use with cpdf to resize to fit:

cpdf -scale-to-fit "431 649" joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw_vol_1_embed_fonts.pdf -o joannisstobaeian01stovuoft_bw_vol_1_scaled.pdf

Uploading that file and checking it, everything looked good, so I did a similar process for the remaining volumes. Everything turned out pretty well overall:

Loebs? Where we’re going, we don’t need Loebs pic.twitter.com/idWRDTRgh3

— Ryan Baumann (@ryanfb) October 21, 2021

Seems fine to me as far as margins/trim/gutter go (which were my main concern for screwups), quality is about as expected (perfect/glue binding), & I messed up on the very last volume not checking if I needed to insert any spacer pages to preserve left/right pages pic.twitter.com/tYQ0mBf66f

— Ryan Baumann (@ryanfb) October 21, 2021

So with the caveat that for a second or public run I would fix the page offset for the last volume, this is a pretty handy reference set of an otherwise practically unobtainable set of physical reference editions. Most of the existing ones out there are print-on-demand reprints of incomplete sets of editions in any case, so you might as well know what you’re getting and that you can get a complete set!