rubber letterpress teaser (1 Viewer)

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Usually wrong.
After a long hiatus (1996 to 2010), I've got my Superior Ace Rotary Printing Press (an impressive name for a toy press that uses rubber type, but hey, it's still more real than ebooks) rolling again. Printed the first page today of a mini-chap of 8 short poems, to be called GHOST. This won't be done for a couple months, at best, so I'm not taking orders yet, but when it is ready, I'll announce it here. It'll be an edition of 50 copies, with some fancy handwork stuff. Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here are a couple photos:


Actually, it looks as if there's toast or some kind of roasted meat in the larger roller.

I presume that adds a particular quality to the end result?
The red hamburger stuff is actually lines of rubber type:


It's huge fun operating this thing. Very simple. Setting type takes patience but is enjoyable. I listen to the Pandora Pink Floyd channel while working on this. Here's another angle of the press:


And here's a shot of the box with a rack full of rubber type:


Eventually, I plan to move to lead type, traditional letterpress like Bill does, but for now, this is what I have and it has it's own charms. It's primitive but definitely looks handmade, which I like.

This chapbook will include original art -- maybe a lino block print and/or painted covers. And there will be a hardcover as well as a wrappers issue, but I haven't decided on the details yet. I'll assume that anyone who posts "save one for me" etc. will be in line for the hardcover, but they can pass on that for the softcover when the time comes. No prices set yet. This is still in the formative stage. The poems are from 2004 through 2008 -- some very short poems I jotted in my notebook that deal with spirits and ghosts. It's the light, comic side of my "darkness" series of poems. I was thinking of doing a book of all of the "darkness" and "ghost" poems, together, but that's about 40 poems and I don't want to set that much type. I may do a separate book of "darkness" poems, printed conventionally (i.e., offset or inkjet). Stay tuned.
Don't put that meat-looking rubber type into the brand new Kong that I see in the first picture, or you'll have dog trouble...
I knew I should have cleaned off the table first. Good thing there was nothing truly scandalous there. What the photos don't show are the dozens of other new and used dog toys and treats scattered around our house. We've had this dog about three weeks and it's an understatement to say she's spoiled. But she's a good dog. We leave her alone for hours and she doesn't destroy anything. Stacks and stacks of books on the floor and she doesn't touch them. That Kong (since opened and stuffed with dog cookies) fascinates her. She's already gotten the squeaker bulb out of her rope monkey. She knows the difference between her toys and our gear. Smart dog.
Well you're a brave and patient man. I'm not sure I've ever seen an entire book printed with rubber type.

That toy says a lot about how much things have changed in 60, 70 years. Can you imagine giving it to a kid now? Ha.
"What is this?"
"It's a printing press!"
"For what?"
"You can print things with it."
"Like what?"
"Oh, I don't know...a newspaper about what goes on in your life..."
"A what?"
"A newspaper. You can send it to your grandmother."
"Oh, great. Not. How do you plug it in?"
"That's the beauty of it - you don't have to plug it in. You just take these letters and put them in the drum, in the reverse order you want them to print. You see? The letters are backwards..."
"Well, that's how printing works. So you put the letters in with this tweezers..."
"Each letter?!"
"Yeah, until you complete a sentence."
"So if I want to print 'bike' I have to put in a 'b' then an 'i' - like every letter?!"
"Yes. But imagine how cool it will be to have a finished, printed sheet!"
"Uh, yeah. If I do it on my computer though I can print out a whole letter, like five pages in, like, two minutes. I don't get it. Why are you trying to make me go back to the middle ages? Did my report card come today?"​
Very cool, David. I'll be on the lookout for a copy when it becomes "hot off the presses."

And hey, with rubber type, you can suck on those letters all day and not worry about lead poisoning! Take THAT Kelsey!
David Barker, Meat Poet.

Does that make Michael Hamburger a Rubber Poet?

Well you're a brave and patient man. I'm not sure I've ever seen an entire book printed with rubber type. [...] That toy says a lot about how much things have changed in 60, 70 years [...]

This is my third book of poems printed with rubber type. My wife and I bought it about 1968 specifically to print poetry. We did a very limited little book by her brother, then I did a book of my own poems (began 1969, completed 1996), and now this one. The results are more like rubberstamping than real metal letterpress, as there's no "bite" into the paper. The letters print flat, not embossed. The ink is thinner than what you would use for letterpress. In fact, since I ran out of the ink originally supplied with the press, I've been using rubberstamp pad ink.

Aside from full books, I've used it to print parts of other chapbooks, such as labels for covers and limitation pages.
Well, it's been two months to the day since I posted the teaser photos of my rubber type chapbook project, and I'm now 3/4ths done printing the poems: 6 are printed out of a total of 8 poems. Still to be done is the printing of the last 2 poems, then the title page and copyright page, then some sort of original art (likely a lino print) and binding in hardcovers and wrappers. At this pace, it will be another couple months before it's published. I would be further ahead but for the two jobs, financial issues to deal with, yard work, dog amusement activities, vaccumning the dog hair off the carpets, writing a short story, and all that other stuff I do instead of playing with my Superior Ace Rotary Press. Just wanted you to know that I am making slow but sure progress. Total edition will be 50 copies.
Okay, after almost three months (not solid...lots of lapses), I've finished printing the eight poems that will make up this little hand-printed chapbook. I still have to make the title & copyright pages, a print of some kind, covers, bind them, so the books will not be completed for a while. Still, I feel like I'm over the hump on this. The printing, done on my Superior Ace Rotary Press with hand-set rubber type, is primitive. Sometimes the poem is tilted, sometimes a few words are too dark, the ink blotted. A few pages have small smudges or offsetting of lines from other poems. Think of it as That Outsider Charm. As much work as this has been, it feels good to be physically printing my own poems, a page at a time. So analog.

A stroke of luck: someone at work left a bunch of nice paper and office supplies on the "free table": stuff they'd bought themselves (not state property). A ream of yellow printer paper, a ream of yellow cover stock, another ream of a thick cream cover stock with tiny colored flecks or threads in it, plus an unopened package of clasp mailing envelops, and a box of file folders. All good stuff I can use for this or other projects. Needless to say, I grabbed it. I might use that fancy cream stock for the art print on this book. This stuff had my name all over it (well, not literally...)
This project has had its charm from the start. Keep us posted David.
Ditto! It's a great little project.
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Thanks for the support, everyone. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to run down to Kinkos instead of cranking the pages out on the rotary, but this is different, and worth the effort I think. It kind of looks like it was printed in some third world country fifty years ago. You don't get that at Kinkos.
I now have a cover. The design for this linoleum block print is from an ancient New England headstone that I took a cellphone photo of, knowing I'd want to use that winged angel head for something, someday. Here's some photos of a prototype for the paperbound issue. The actual covers will be printed on a heaver cream colored stock, but this'll give you an idea of how it will look. There will be 30 paperbound copies and 20 hardbound copies, with all copies numbered and signed. I don't have a prototype hardcover yet. And I'm not yet taking orders. This is just to whet your apetite. Caveat: the book consists of 8 short poems. You can read the whole thing in less than a minute.


looks great. are you printing the lino-cut with the press?
Thanks all. I'm not using the rotary press on the covers. I use a roller to spread the ink on the lino block and then lay the paper over it and rub the back of the paper with a big spoon. For the title, I'll use rubber stamps of the individual letters -- from an old set of the alphabet that I've had since way back -- printed one letter at a time. Rumba Train Press is a name I've used off and on since the (I think) early 1970s.

I just printed 30 covers for the paperback edition, the block print part. Now to add the titles...
The angel is a nice touch and the printing makes it look like a priceless relic. I guess this means I need to get one.
Great stuff. That sort of tombstone can be seen around New England, but you have to go to the older cemeteries to find them. Very cool. I know you're not taking orders, but I'm looking forward to this.
Looks excellent. I'd be interested in a copy as soon as they're ready. Can I sign up for your newsletter?
Thanks, you guys. A few of you have asked me to hold a copy for you, and I'm happy to do that. The way our house works is that my kids move in and out all the time, and I am always shifting my fugitive piles of papers from one room to another to accomodate them, and so the little notes I wrote myself about holds a month or two ago have gotten lost. So if you wrote me some time ago and asked to be put on the hold list, please send me a new PM to remind me. Meanwhile, I'll look for those lost notes (and a bunch of lost poems at the same time). Or if you want to be on the hold list but haven't asked until now, go ahead and PM me. These aren't orders because the books aren't ready and there are no prices yet. It's just for making sure you get a chance at ordering. I'll assume you want the hardcover unless you say you want the paperbound, but I won't hold you to it; you can switch from hardcover to paper when and if you order. Thanks.

ps: If you've said in the thread to hold one, you're already on the new hold list.
The weird spacing in "Rumba Train Press" -- that's the funkiness of this type. It does what it wants, all my efforts be damned. I just go along for the ride.
Thanks for reminding me of that honor. It's the only literary award I've ever won. Seems I always come back to using Rumba Train although I've played with many other press names. It's mood dependent -- not the mood of the work, but my mood at the moment when I have to decide what press name I'm using.
I've got the 30 paperbound copies completed, but I'm holding off on announcing them for sale until I also have some hardbacks done. There'll be 20 hardbacks total. I'll finish up 5 or 10 hardcovers and then start selling copies of both editions.

I've already mentioned that the printing on this book is pretty funky with some tilted lines, blotted letters, even a few small ink smudges. I ran 5 extra copies (55 total: 20 hardcover, 30 paperbound, and 5 "out of series" reject copies). Today I sorted all the printed pages into three groups, based on the presence and seriousness of the printing flaws. The groups are: "Good" (no flaws, or less serious flaws) "Okay" (more flaws than "Good" pages, but readable) and "Bad" (serious flaws). The 20 Good copies will be used in the hardcovers, the 30 Okay copies are in the paperbacks, and the 5 "Bad" copies I'll keep -- maybe give them away later, after the edition is sold out.)

With any lucky I'll have some hardcovers in a week or so and make the announcement.
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