LitPress on producing a new missal

PrayTell asked Liturgical Press:  You are a leader in publishing the Church’s liturgical books. Tell us about how you will produce the upcoming missal. What is your sense of the process and the timeline for your production of the upcoming missal? How soon do you need the text for this to happen still in 2011?

Director Peter Dwyer Replied: Liturgical Press is planning for the publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal whenever the final text is ready to be released.  However, the extraordinary confusion of late about the state and status of the text of the new Roman Missal suggests that all publication plans are at best hopeful predictions.  So, we hope to release the Missal for implementation on the First Sunday of Advent of 2011 and should be able to do so if the final text is in our hands well before the end of 2010.  The sooner the better, of course.  And a few caveats are in order:

1)      We expect to receive InDesign files which implies that the text is clean and reasonably error-free.  Previous ritual editions, the Lectionary for example, were fraught with errors which the publishers collectively worked mightily to correct.  We expect the Missal files will be in better condition than the Lectionary files were but the extensive changes late in the process of preparing the Missal text increase the likelihood of more errors slipping through.  Corrections take time, lots of corrections take lots of time.

2)      The number of publishers involved has a direct bearing on the ability of USCCB/CDW staff to review pages prior to publication.  This is a huge project and each edition has to be reviewed.  The InDesign files should reduce the number of reviews from two to one but if text corrections end up causing significant reflow (repaging of the book) a second review may be necessary.

We won’t know until we have the final text what the first release date will be.  This is the date on which any publisher may begin to ship books.  For publishers and parishes the release date is as important as the implementation date.  Priests will need to begin practicing with the new texts well ahead of the implementation date.  For this reason I believe a release date in mid-summer 2011 is important for successful implementation and reception of the new Missal.  If the final text of the new Missal is in publishers’ hands in October 2010 we will have eight months to produce books for a mid-summer release. Eight months is very tight but doable provided the text is relatively error free and we don’t encounter a delay because of the review process.  If we don’t have final text until the end of 2010 a mid-summer release date is unrealistic. Six months is not enough time to prepare, print, and bind a book of this size and complexity.  We would still likely have an Advent implementation date but the later first release date will shorten the preparation time.


  1. I used to work for a large commercial printing company.

    What seems sillier to me is working with more than one typesetter.
    Once the text has been set and approved, producing volumes of various sizes, quality, colors and even type fonts, etc. would become far less complicated if spelling, punctuation, etc. was pre-approved. Of course final page proofs would still be needed..

    Then all the various publishers would receive final type copy the same day.

    1. Ray, this makes a lot of sense at first glance. But after 20+ years of living with various publisher’s liturgical books, I would say that some take the interior design and presentation more seriously than others, and many will choose one publisher over another for the interior appearance of the book. Removing that sort of option would be just one more offense in an already alienating process.

  2. Cody:

    Granted that some publishers are far more conscientious than others. But if they all start out with the proper text and correct spelling and punctuation, proofing errors at the end would be far easier. Yet nothing should be assumed. Every word/sentence always has to be proofed. Errors happen.

    1. Every word/sentence always has to be proofed. Errors happen.

      Very true. It took Marietti and Pustet years of reprints with corrections every time to produce something which was eventually about as perfect as it could be, and that was back in the 19th century. The situation is no different today, except that computers may make it easier to achieve perfection more rapidly. But the accuracy of the human eye is still the ultimate filter.

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