ATTN: letterpressers who want to talk about letterpressing (1 Viewer)


stop the penistry
so i've been accepted into a summer course at my university, called "print, communication & culture". it's run by the university's small press ( and the prescription is:

An introduction to the history of the book and print in western, eastern and indigenous cultures and its relationship to oral, manuscript and electronic media. Topics include book design and technological change, readers and reading spaces, censorship and oppression, packaging and advertising, and the reinvention of the book in the digital age.

my tutorials will all be conducted in the press workroom, and i get to spend a big chunk of time working on a letterpress project.

basically, this thread is for me to ask experienced letterpressers for information, advice, insight and explanations, and maybe just a good place to talk about all things cool related to letterpressing.

i should begin by admitting that my interest in letterpressing is a pretty new thing, and i know fuck-all about it. but i'm very interested in learning whatever others have to teach. so forgive me in advance if i ask any retarded questions.

also: this thread isn't just for letterpressers - anyone who has any interest in this subject, or wants to post pictures of any cool letterpressed stuff they have, should feel free to contribute.

let's spread the letterpress love!

Hi Justine,
I'll try to post some photos of my press and maybe some photos of lockup so that folks can get an idea of what goes into the art of letterpress...

I've long had a fascination with letterpress but sadly i fall into the "don't know jack about it" category. I was once asked to leave the Museum of Literature in Budapest for taking a photo of a letterpress there....I made the elderly woman standing guard very angry apparently. eh. On a more friendly note, there is a woman in RI who has a really cool printshop that's been there from '65.

waiting for Bill's photos ; )
There are a bunch of videos of me running the press on youtube under the user name "bospress".

Also here are some photos:
My 1914 Chandler & Price New Style (The same style press used by Loujon)

Me printing (40 lbs lighter and with more hair)

My daughter helping print anti-Bush piece for Bagazine 2

My old Kelsey as i printed Bukowski's "as buddah Smiles"

My daughter and I printing Bukowski

My son printing on Toilet Paper.
great pics, Bill.

EDIT: I just looked at some of your vids on youtube. very cool.
although I know for certain now I'll never take up the letterpress; I'm too clumsy, I'd lose half my fingers.
you must get into a certain rhythm after a while, where you don't even have to think about what your hands are doing. perhaps?
thanks bill! that's awesome that you're getting your kids involved.

part of the course i'm doing also examines the history, development and impact of typography, and the role typography plays in conveying meaning; so if anyone wants to talk about that here, go for it.

what i learned today: italic was designed by an italian dude called francesco griffo, and first printed in 1500.
the letterpressing videos get a bit monotonous after a while, but strangely enough the Meese Report never does !

Hi Sonny,
I agree and I shot the videos! the real reason that they are cool is that they give someone who has no idea of the mechanics of letterpresss a better idea of what it is. Before I bought my first letterpress (a kelsey) I had NO idea how to use one. I was surprised that I was able to learn it quickly...

Also, I agree about the Meese report as read by S.A. Griffin doing a Christopher Walken impression. I shot a few videos of S.A. reading this document that our Government spent millions of dollars putting out. I fully expected that youtube would pull it and I would have to fight with them using the argument that it is a government document put out by the Attorney General's Office, but surprisingly it is still there.

thanks rubyred for starting this thread ... : )

bill - very cool seeing you teach your kids this. my hats off to you.


My hope is that they become interested in publishing and printing and someday have a real interest in helping me design, print, etc...

you must get into a certain rhythm after a while, where you don't even have to think about what your hands are doing. perhaps?

You are exactly right. I will print while listening to music and actually tune out what I am doing. It is a lot like driving a long distance and then realizing that you have been awake, but in a zone and on autopilot.

Plus, getting the paper to fall into line in exactly the right place is the hardest part for a new pressman, but after a while it becomes automatic. I always refer to a baseball pitcher that can throw the ball and 95% of the time put it exactly where he intends, while I would hit batters, the dirt, the spectators, etc....

I still have all of my fingers and hope to keep them all!

I see that the intro to that piece shows the printed pages at an angle under bright light to highlight the fact that the letters are embossed into the surface of the paper.

That's the common modern image of letterpress, but if you were a letterpress printer back in the day, you'd have been fired for printing like that. The sign of a real master printer was the ability to print good, legible copy with no impression whatsoever.

That was for a couple of reasons; first, If you print on both sides of a sheet and have a deep impression, it's very difficult to read. And the majority of printing is done for utilitarian rather than decorative purposes. Second, that kind of impression wears the type out much faster than a lighter impression. Not a problem if you print occasionally, but if you use the same type every day, you don't want to wear it out in a few weeks.

Okay, everyone can wake up now and move on to the next post. ;)
my first ever letterpress printed object!! this was a class collaboration; see if you can guess which line is mine. i got to pick the type, lay it in the stick, and put it through the whole printing process.

letterpress 29 Nov.jpg
bill, i now know what the 'chase' and the 'furniture' are, and also where the terms 'uppercase' and 'lowercase' come from!

there's a small library in the work room, and the most amazing collection of letterpress printed books, and handmade book objects. i'm taking my camera in sometime in the next couple of weeks to get some photos.
bill, i now know what the 'chase' and the 'furniture' are, and also where the terms 'uppercase' and 'lowercase' come from!
Keep doing it long enough and you'll learn that a lot of common phrases and terms originated in the print shop.
Ps and Q's in lowercase look very similar in type, especially when you are looking at them backwards. There is this urban legend that this is the basis of "mind your Ps and Qs". I'm not sure. I have also heard that it was in reference to "Mind your Pints and Quarts", which makes sense to an American, but anyone that uses the Metric system, apparently is it rubbish as they serve beer in pints and Quartz apparently never factor into it. Also, if they were talking about type, it would probably have been "mind your Bs and Ds" and they are more common that Q and are closed in layout in the type case.

I love people that present this specific urban legend and myth as fact to impress. Often people will send me e-mails or proudly proclaim something like the Pints and Quarts theory as if they just found the secret of life and are always pained to hear that there are two theories and that neither of them makes much sense.

SFCB is a wonderful place with a lot of great resources for printers. I took a Vandercook maintenance class there, and used to get plates developed there from time to time by one of the printers who was a memeber there... There are a lot of printers in the Bay Area.
how different typefaces do you have, and what are some of your favourites?

I have about 75 different typefaces/sizes, etc. My favorite would depend on what I'm printing. I have some that look GREAT for text and others that make great titles I would have to say, though that my favorite is Americana...

SFCB is a wonderful place with a lot of great resources for printers. I took a Vandercook maintenance class there, and used to get plates developed there from time to time by one of the printers who was a memeber there... There are a lot of printers in the Bay Area.

it certainly sounds pretty awesome. there is absolutely nothing like that here in NZ. the great thing is that they offer so many classes and at different levels, with what seem to be pretty affordable prices.
Better Then What?

garamond italic 156.

i was SO mad at myself when i saw the first print and realised i'd used an e instead of an a. my first ever letterpress print and i fuck up the spelling. idiot.

bill, i really like 'americana' too - for such a clean, simple type it's extremely
evocative, and always makes me think of edward hopper paintings.
i'm sure that after you're dead and suddenly achieve a cult-like following, that error will only make it all the more valuable.

at least, that's what i'm banking on.
and the ink the ink that flows throgh my veins like poison

mine is going with me to thr grave, baby. never will it be made into an opera,
silkscreened onto a t-shirt or sold on eBay.

thr gave...
to thr grave...
Once, I did. My connection to him was his late publisher, Gary Aposhian. I never had any direct contact with him and only once received mail from him directly (when he signed the edition). That was back in 2003. After that, he switched publishers and Gary passed away.

bluebottle said:
it's true about ben franklin - he's one of the heroes at the print shop. and loujon is something to aspire too, esp. with the printing, paper, design, etc. could you imagine, h. miller, buk, - great authors to print. here's to all the tramp printers of yore, and today! and all the wandering poets......

i just started work two days ago at another print shop hand feeding a c&p part time, only this guy has designed a pedal-wheel to control the tempo, nice, and it's all "job work" - like stuff you print for the city or state, little businesses, invoices, tax season stuff, etc. 500 impressions an hour, but i'm slow still. anyway, about loujon and printing of collectibles - what resources are out there that all of you respect that give good info on letterpress printing, papermaking, etc. i know there's a book on loujon out there, just released i think? - and i'm really looking for a lineage regarding loujon, like you get a lineage of poets from whitman, neruda, beats, etc. is there such a lineage with the printers of this time?
Ah, you're printing on a proof press. I always wanted to get one of those, but didn't have the 40 square feet of floor space to give up to one. ;) They are not practical for longer runs or anything that requires any kind of registration for multiple colors, but the relatively unlimited size format always tempted me.

There's a lot of heavy metal in that shop. Looks like a good place to learn.

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