Hong Kong, December 2012.
Sitting in the morning breeze by the pool bar here in Shatin, smoking my morning cigar and looking forward to another glorious day of new and old experiences in this most dynamic and vibrating city, I reflect on my impressions since I arrived here, only a week ago, but an eternity in my personal feelings about the man hosting me from the very moment I stepped out of the Lufthansa 747 at Chep La Kok airport.
He has hosted me with the outmost hospitality, having his chauffeur and personal assistant picking me up at the airport, booking my hotel both here in HK and in Guangzhou through his personal assistants, assisting me in obtaining my China visa, providing me with a personal limousine and driver/translator for my 3 day stay in Guangzhou and hosting me each and every night in style in his home, going even to the extent of preparing grilled pork knuckle for dinner, among other delicacies to make me feel at home having such German food. Incredible and most appreciated.
Of the more than 50 hours of conversations during my stay, a few of them revolved around his new book, the second edition of his now legendary and iconic Encyclopaedia.
The information I received and which will be posted on my blog after my return home, plus all the privileged insights into his herculean effort in producing this tome to the most exacting standards ( and, in the printing to new limits ) are invaluable and I am most grateful for his permission to pass it on to the many that have enquired and still do about the date it will be published and the contents it will have.
I can already state that it will break the publishing, photographic and content standards known and certainly the dimensions of density and weight we are accustomed in books.
It truly will be an exceptional book of reference to celebrate the 10-th anniversary of the publishing of the first edition that has become the book of reference in the cigar world.
But it is not just the gathering of this information that makes this visit again a very pleasurable one, as have been all my three other previous visits to Min Ron Nee – it is the man himself, his most human warmth, his personal integrity, his moral values, his generosity, his relaxed, outgoing, spontaneous and well spirited character that impress me the most.
Knowing that I had had surgery on an inflamed finger in my hand to remove an abscess just a few days before my flight to HK, he personally took it upon him to expertly disinfect and renew the dressing after removing the remaining inflamed fluid in the finger, changing the dressing daily and taking care I was properly and professionally cared for.
His care and advice for my Guangzhou visit led him to provide me with the very best driver/assistant at my service for the stay of my visit in line with his Cantonese traditional obligation not to let his guest have a single problem.
And yet, the man himself is the most modest, open, sincere human being in his concern for humanity and universal human rights.
A great philanthropist, while being humorous, open minded and most civilized in his approach to others and the attention he gives to people requesting his assistance, as many of my friends can attest to that have passed on enquiries to him through me.
It is certainly a unique privilege and I am honoured by his confidence and openness.
I have followed the progress of the book from afar, but here, he has invited me to personally see the results and I have been shown the drafts of the book, the collection of all the boxes used and catalogued and photographed for the project, shown the original 8×10 prints, given the details and yet there not a single air of him being in any way bragging or arrogantly displaying all this to impress me personally, or the cigar world in general, but to give me the details of an herculean task that has taken upon himself single-handedly with a few assistants, working on his, very scarce, spare time, converting one of his garages into a top-notch photographic studio and investing a small fortune into independently publish this book, as he did with the first edition.
Why you may wonder.
Why me, I wonder.
And, as in my previous visits and my communication with him, I realize that it is the fact that I’m an independent and free minded blogger, not in any way connected to the commercial aspects of the cigar world that has given me the access, the confidence and the shared spirit, as he is, in many ways a very singular and independently minded person, a lone wolf, a “nobody” as he will humbly describe himself, not prepared to accept any compromises neither to his outspoken views or values nor to his demanding quality standards to his staff, his friends or his projects.
As the day starts in Hong Kong, I reflect on all this and feel a deep gratitude and sense of personal accomplishment being right here, right now.
Might sound a bit personal and emotional – but that is my way of expressing my feelings.
Now, to the facts and details about the book – all quoted with permission of its author, Min Ron Nee and exclusive to this blog with the corresponding photographs taken by myself at MRN’s home with his permission:
The second edition of his Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars is so far completed.
It is now in the correction phase to make it 100% correct.
It will contain 2,000 pages with about 4000 photographs. The precise number of photographs has not been counted by the author.
The reason for the delay has been that many photographic shots and trial printings are rejected to achieve maximum quality.
A minimum of two boxes of every cigar which can be possibly be bought with money which will appear in the book have been acquired for recording both reviews and photographs.
It will have half and full page photographs of each box, opened and closed.
The presentation method of the second edition will be very similar/exact to the first edition, making it very easy to use.
The book will be released for sure in 2013 to celebrate the 10-th anniversary of the first release of MRN’s Encyclopaedia.
It will be presented at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair (latest entry date in mid-January 2014 ) to compete in the 2014 quality awards for photography and printing.
Over 10,000 8×10 and uncounted 4 x 5 Fuji Provia 100 films were bought for the project, causing the Fuji Provia 100 8 x 10 films to become out of stock in the Hong Kong market – all quota for HK and a huge percentage for the Japanese market was acquired by MRN.
Each photographic shot costs HK$ 438 (3 shots of different exposures taken per shot, each Fuji 8 x 10 film costs HK $86, plus development of each 8 x 10 film costs HK $60.)
Total cost of the project has so far exceeded HK$ 20 (twenty) Million.
The cost includes buying all ancient documents and cigar boxes, with or without cigars, if available, at any cost asked for.
The cost does not include manual labour, many veteran people in the printing industry have volunteered to work for free.
There will be “no shortcuts” on anything.
The book will be testing the limits of existing printing techniques.
The paper used for the printing of the second edition had to be extra dense to prevent the ink from “bleeding” into the paper and tarnish the quality as it will be printed with 350 lines.
Resolution is so high that even using an ordinary magnifying glass it will not lose its quality.
All photographic effects have been achieved by special lighting techniques with absolutely no digital tricks or Photoshop being used at any time, which is always despised by MRN.
A perfect example for the special lighting technique can bee seen in the exclusive photographs of the 1492 humidor included in this post. You can see the “firework” effect on the lid of the humidor – this has been achieved by lighting. I have never seen such an effect before.
Only 2,000 copies of the book will be released. All of them are numbered and fitted with anti-counterfeit measures done by both the printer and by the author.
Of those only 1800 will be available to the public.
200 copies of the book will be presented to people who have contributed to the second edition.
Copy number 002 to number 100 will be autographed by the author and presented to contributors who will also receive a second free copy for reference/working purposes.
Copy number one will be kept by the author.
Weight of the book will be 30 lbs (5 volumes of 400 pages each weighing 6 lbs) plus a wooden presentation case of another 10 lbs and an external shipping case of yet another 10 lbs, making the total weight 50 lbs.
The intention of the book is to preserve information for posterity which will otherwise be lost. It is not a commercial project and monetary gain is not the motivation.
MRN has told me in person that he has not seriously thought of the final number of books printed, distribution channels and/or retail price. Getting the first 2000 books published in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair is his first priority for the moment.