Musings On Publishing International BONSAI.

Beginning in the late 1960s when at college on Long Island I became an active member of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York. In 1978 as a director I became editor of their quarterly magazine The Bonsai Bulletin. At that time there were three large bonsai organizations in the United States; The American Bonsai Society, Bonsai Clubs International and The Bonsai Society of Greater New York, each publishing their own magazines.

Returning to Rochester and beginning to publish The Bonsai Bulletin, a visitor stopped at my table at a local bonsai show and we began chatting. He owned Great Lakes Press, one of Rochester’s premier printing companies and offered to help design and print the organization’s magazine. He eventually became a friend, student and business partner distributing bonsai pots for over 30 years. Together with Yuji Yoshimura we began producing a premier bonsai magazine, unlike all other English language bonsai periodicals. It took a tremendous amount of work on our part, all on a volunteer basis. Through Mr. Yoshimura’s contacts in Japan arrangements were made to translate, edit and publish articles into English.

 I began to think about the magazine and thought why not combine all three publications into one higher quality issue and have a page or two for each organization’s news. I wanted to improve both the quality of information as well as presentation to a larger audience. The idea was presented to all three groups and I just about got crucified. Each organization wanted control. 

 So after some thought, I decided to publish International BONSAI magazine in1979 with the assistance of Mr. Yoshimura with color covers, a first for English language bonsai magazines. With the guidance of Great Lakes Press and graphic artist, Harvey Carapella we proceeded and have continued to publish. Harvey Carapella is still the art director and has designed every issue. When the first issue was published another friend, Joe Noga, professor of color reproduction at Rochester Institute of Technology, saw the covers and could not stand their poor color quality of the covers. He volunteered to work on the color images and has continued for 41 years to improve the quality; unmatched by other English language bonsai magazines.

Now after publishing The Bonsai Bulletin for a year then International BONSAI for 42 years we have used several different printers, changing when each company sold out to larger organizations or closing because of digital printing.

 We started printing with Great Lakes Press. Printing the first color covers was an experience. Since the company was in Rochester I always did press proofing by making trips to check over the printing while on press, an activity still do today, only it now requires six different trips for each issue. As the press was running on the first issue I suddenly noticed that the word “Masakuni” on the back cover ad was misspelled. The presses stopped and the error was corrected and covers reprinted. At Great Lakes Press one of the pre-press “strippers” who actually cut and pasted four different films for each color plate, became interested in bonsai and became a student. He attended my annual symposia and was introduced to some of the finest bonsai artists from around the world. In one issue Harvey and I mislabeled a photo of John Naka and Mikio Oshima at a symposium demonstration. My student, the pre-press stripper caught the error and changed their names to match the photograph. 

When Great Lakes Press was bought out, my friend in pre-press changed to Upstate Litho and I followed him to the smaller, but high quality press. I carefully approved the proofs and watched the start of printing for each issue. When the final copies were delivered I discovered that an image of a Zelkova bonsai was printed upside down with the twigs pointed down and pot pointed up. Apparently during the printing a pressman noticed a scratch on a photo. So he stopped printing, made a new plate and restriped the image, upside down! Upstate Litho had to reprint the entire issue to correct the problem.

 Throughout our long and pioneering history of publishing International BONSAI a few errors and typos have slipped through. We quickly learned that some readers only look for errors… And we try to print something for everyone.

When we started publishing each article had to be typed, edited, typeset, then cut and pasted with wax guns on to boards to be photographed then made into printing plates. A lot of work. Soon electronic publishing was introduced with Adobe PageMaker and we slowly began with the new technology. Once the owner of Upstate Litho mentioned that another client produced their project but failed to consult with them about software compatibility and they had to start their project all over. So each time new technology was introduced I was professionally guided to the latest software so we were compatible.

 After publishing International BONSAI for 42 years and producing 164 issues, in order to advance classical bonsai art to a broader world-wide audience I have decided to suspend the printed edition and expand my educational offerings with the introduction of International BONSAI OnLine which is a FREE digital bi-monthly magazine.

International BONSAI OnLine will continue with the high standards of quality we have introduced to English language bonsai magazines, only more frequent and for FREE for all bonsai enthusiasts around the world. It still remains the first and only professional bonsai magazine published in the United States. 

 With the introduction of the magazine in a digital edition, I feel we can reach more people and International BONSAI OnLine has the potential of having the largest circulation making it ideal for advertisers to offer their products and services; as well as to promote bonsai exhibitions, conventions and other gatherings.

The last printed issue of International BONSAI came off the press last week, and although sad, and with a tear in my eye, I look forward to an exciting new platform to inspire and provide valuable authorative bonsai information for everyone. The first issue of International BONSAI OnLine is nearly completed and I invite everyone to check it out and add their names for their FREE subscription and to recommend it to their friends, club members and clients.