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The Royal York - Recreating the Largest Hotel in the British Commonwealth Book

Posted on 1 February 2019

The Royal York Hotel Book Project


From time to time Graphics Production Group is lucky enough to work on some interesting print projects. Over the summer and fall we worked on this piece of History and Print that we wanted to share with you.

Heritage architects can conserve, renovate, and restore historic buildings and return their former glory through careful interventions with new and original materials, construction methods, and even cutting edge tools to emulate the original approach; but what about applying this conservation approach to an aging and run-down book about that building? That's exactly the project that Graphic Production Group was able to be part of this last summer.

ERA Architects is a Toronto-based architecture and planning firm, specializing in heritage conservation, who have been working for many years with the Royal York Hotel, which is of course one of Toronto's most well-known historic properties. The conservation team has many resources at its disposal to accurately rehabilitate the interiors and exterior of the hotel and direct the strategy of the project, from archival photos to architectural drawings and construction notes, and even promotional images and advertisements from the time between the 1920s and the 1960s.

One particular piece of important research reference came in the form of a 24 page promotional booklet made for the first major addition and update to the Royal York Hotel in 1957. Unlike monochrome photographs or blueprints, this booklet included full-colour illustrations of all the interior spaces of the hotel at the time, offering an unparalleled insight into the colour palette, textures, and even the lighting choices and furniture as they actually were.

Even though promotional materials like flyers and booklets are easily saved artifacts, tucked away in a drawer or as keep-sake souvenirs, as far as anyone could tell between the Canadian Pacific Railway Archives and the private collection of the Royal York, this book was the only known available copy: So, ERA was asked to make a faithful replica and to produce a limited edition run in honour of the hotel's grand history. Graphics Production Group was chosen to do the print production and played a vital role in creating solutions to the challenges of the project and there were many. 


Original Book




There were many challenges and things to consider when it comes to recreating a book from scratch.

1. The first challenge was that there were of course no print files or original artwork to start from each page needed to be recreated;

2. The cover's 'Canadian Pacific Rail' red and gold foil needed to be matched as closely as possible;

3. The cover illustration of the building was a blind emboss and a new print die needed to be created; and

4. Picking similar paper stocks that had the same texture and tone as the original was essential for reproducing the same vibrant colours and the overall feel of the book as a physical object.


The Process

Carl Shura, the graphic designer at ERA Architects was instrumental in getting this project done. He took on scanning the entire book and creating all the necessary print-ready files for Graphics Production Group. The project had two basic pieces to it: the covers, including a die-cut, glued folder pocket and blind-embossed image; and the 24 inside pages.


The Cover

We printed the outside cover on Cougar Natural Cover weight stock. It was litho printed 4/4 + 2 Special Pantones, one for the red and one for the gold. Considerable effort was taken to match the red precisely, as it was a defining element not only for the covers, but was used throughout the book for headlines and sidebars. Even after the designer had finished with the interior images, text, and colour corrections, GPG expertly altered the ink densities and tints to ensure that every page was perfect against the original, and matched the red of the cover.

After it was printed, the covers went for embossing of the building illustration.


The Dies

Recreating the print die was one of the hardest parts of the project because the original was a multi-level sculptural die, expertly executed by a craftsman and engraved by hand. The intricate detail that was in the original needed to be transferred over to the new book within a single layer die, with attention to the positive and negative spaces of the original. The designer worked from tracings of the cover and created a digital file that could be used to machine a new print die.

Once the cover was printed and embossed, the next step was creasing and die cutting on our Heidleberg press. There are creases scored on the front and the back of the book for illustrated gate folds; the die left an extended tab on the inside back cover to create a pocket at the back of the book. The last step for the cover was to glue the back pocket into place. 


The Inside Pages

The entire book had to be scanned and digitally remastered to create usable print files. This entailed isolating every illustration, colour-correcting them (essentially removing the cream-coloured paper from behind the image and accounting for it to be reproduced back onto a similarly cream-coloured paper) and also resetting all of the text manually, making sure everything was aligned in the same place as the original book.

The inside pages were digitally printed on Cougar natural text weight stock. With the inside of the book we had to make sure the red closely resembled the red pantone on the cover and that the pictures came out clean as though they were the original pages.


Putting it all Together

Once all these steps were done we could finally put the book together! To do this we trimmed all the pages down to size and then saddle stitched the cover to the inside pages.


Final Results






We would like to thank The Royal York Hotel and ERA Architects for giving us the opportunity to work on this print project. The History of the book and the many print processes that were used made this project unique and fun to work on. If you are looking to recreate a printed piece from the past or have a project that involves many different print processes, call or email the print consultants at Graphics Production Group today.


Chris Downey

Print Consultant

(905) 447-0257


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