The Northern California Japanese Sword Club (NCJSC) is an educational non-profit that has published several reference books on Japanese sword-related topics.
These books were produced by club members in the 1980's and 1990's using manual typewriters. Inclusion of Kanji (Japanese characters) required leaving spaces in the English text, moving the paper to a Japanese typewriter, and filling in the Japanese characters. The effort required to produce the thousands of pages of text is mind-boggling in today's environment of word processors.
Some of these books were published as bound books. But as the initial printings sold out, the large minimum order quantities made reprints cost-prohibitive. So for decades, the books had been published as spiral bound photocopies. Eventually, as master copies were misplaced, the books became photocopies of photocopies and the print and image quality degraded.
In the last 2010's and early 2020's, the proliferation of print-on-demand services (with low minimum order quantities) made production of new bound editions attractive. The books were scanned, optical character recognition (OCR) was applied and new digital masters were produced. This effort was made affordable by the available of free computer tools for image process (paint.net and GIMP) and typesetting (LaTeX).
Even with the computer tools, it was a very time consuming process. Although OCR had advanced enough to recognize both English and Japanese, it was not perfect, especially on the degraded copies, and lots of manual corrections were required. Further editing was requried to make the writing consistent. For example, there are multiple conventions for writing Japanese using the Latin Alphabet. A Japanese 'long o' might be written o, ou, ?, or ô. Since the original manuscripts were produced over multiple years, using multiple references, it was not surprising that different conventions might be used in different places. In the case of the Novice Course, the author also decided to make some updates.
Although the NCJSC publications are primarily English, some Kanji are included for technical terms and names. The changing of Kanji over time led to a particular challenge on "Tsuba, An Aesthetic Study," a book which was largely a translation of a Japanese reference book from 1960. In the Post WW II period, some of the Kanji used for official business were simplified. The Japanese version of the book used the simplified forms of the Kanji. But the English version used the older forms. Whether this was due to the new forms not being included on the old typewriter or to a preference for the older forms, it added complexity to the proof reading. When investigating discrepencies between Kanji in the English and Japanese versions, we had to decide which were errors and which were intentional (or perhaps dictated by the limitations of the typewriter).
The first three books were finished in 2022. While the improved binding and correction of minor errors in the text are nice to have, the main benefit of this project is that the books are restored to their original clarity and the digital masters will not degrade over time.
In 2023, the first book was updated and a fourth book was finished.
These books are now available through Lulu.com.