For nearly 145 years, RR Donnelley has played a pivotal role in bringing to the nation's households and businesses both basics such as Bibles, telephone books, mail-order catalogs, and encyclopedias, as well as consumer essentials such as best-selling novels and fashion and specialty magazines. This high-volume work has been the foundation of the company's success. Typically, these large, long-term printing accounts represented an enormous financial investment in equipment and necessitated construction of new facilities.
One example of the scale of a single large contract is the 14th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1936 in 29 volumes in an edition 60,000 sets. It contained 44 million words (all set into type by RR Donnelley), 30,024 pages, 41,000 separate articles, and 15,139 engravings. The printing type for the Encyclopaedia weighed 250 tons, and the production of the multi-volume set was estimated to have consumed 513,720 leaves of gold leaf and 100,000 pounds of ink. The skins of 750,000 sheep and 75,000 goats were used to manufacture two types of bindings.
During the same year, the company printed and shipped 7,373,505 telephone books, 15,298,233 catalogs, 50,104,89 flyers, 60, 788,777 magazines, 185,334,665 pamphlets and circulars, 726,363 case bound books (not including sets), and 34,254,999 sheets that were sent to other printers.