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Re: letterpress...



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Sue,
     As you can see, you've certainly touched a nerve (or maybe a
funny-bone!) There are many, many of us out there who are into letterpress.
Everything you've heard so far has been good advice, including the APA and
AAPA sites, and of course the inimitable Briar Press web site
(http://www.briarpress.org/) which should DEFINITELY be one of the first
places you look. Not only do they have a wonderful online museum of
letterpress equipment, but they also have one of the most active online
classified sections around, where you can find equipment to buy and sell.
     To put things in perspective, after Johann Gutenberg produced the
first book from movable type in 1451, the technology (letterpress) remained
*virtually unchanged* for about 500 years! Then, in the fifty years since,
we have had not one, but TWO complete inversions in technology. The
photo-composition/paste-up/mechanical technology that you grew up on was
actually a short-lived interstitial technology that lasted from the
late-fifties or so until the early nineties. These days, everything is done
by computer and digital reproduction, and students coming out of art school
today probably have no idea at all as to what "paste-up" means, let alone
"letterpress"!
     As Don, Bruce and the others have pointed out, we letterpressers have
our own mail list, called LETPRESS, which has over 600(!) active members,
including many of the most eminent scholars and practitioners in the field.
It is full of wonderful, funny, cranky, printers, who love nothing more
than giving advice to people asking questions about letterpress [grin].
There is also a substantial overlap (maybe 25-30%?) with this list.
     To quickly answer your question about buying a press, there are no new
ones being manufactured these days, but since they were around for five
hundred years, and only completely died out in the past decade, there are
quite a few used ones available. These are, of course, considered antiques
[grin]. Depending on the size and type of press you would like to get, you
will find them more or less available, and priced anywhere from free to
$2000. Paradoxically, it is the smaller presses which can get pricey,
because they are so much in demand. A nice Craftsmen Pilot hand-powered
press, for example, which weighs about 100 pounds and can sit on a sturdy
table, might go for $250-$500 or so. But a larger, floor-model,
treadle-powered, Chandler & Price unit might be available for
$100-$200...but you'll have to go pick it up with a rigger (or at least a
truck and some strong backs.)
     Most of the supplies you would need to print are still available from
folks like NA Graphics in Silverton, CO,
(http://www.printmart.com/ads/970-387-0212.htm) and you should figure out
shelling out another few hundred for all the various stuff you'd require to
get started (type, solvents, ink, paper, composing stick, etc.) The only
problem is that lettepress ownership is even worse than LETPRESS list
membership: it is COMPLETELY addictive! Most of us end up like Bruce: after
you've got your first press, what initially seemed impossible (finding a
press in the first place) soon becomes routine, and you will be amazed at
all the equipment that wanders into your home (or basement, or barn, or
warehouse...) I can't tell you  how many presses I have, because word might
leak back to my spouse...and I'd be dead meat!
     So, welcome to this wonderful word, follow the links, join LETPRESS,
fire away with questions...printers love nothing more than helping
indoctrinate newcomers into the mysterious Black Art (as it has been known
for 500 years!)

-David S. Rose
 Five Roses Press
 New York, NY

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