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Re: Letterpress



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         Yes, dots are dots, but the smaller the dots and the better the
computer program that places the dots, the better the output, everything
else being equal. Now that dots come in varied sizes on the same page, the
results are even better.
         Speaking of dots, master punches produced the mats from which type
was cast. The edges of these punches were produced by files, which produced
serrations. Competent craftsmen could minimize these irregularities, and
pantographs could reduce them further, but molecules are still molecules,
which are, in effect, dots.
         Omitted from this discussion so far has been the effect of wear on
metal type. New foundry type produces beautiful, sharp images if the press
is not badly worn, and the paper and the ink are matched, and if the
rollers are in good shape and are set properly. After a few thousand
impressions, the type produces less and less sharp images. If Linotype or
Ludlow or other soft type is used, the images get less sharp after a few
hundred impressions. Much of the type available today is long over the hill
and would have been sent back to the foundry for recasting by a good
letterpress shop in times gone by. Wear of the type face is not a factor
with digital type.
         Most of the letter presses which are available today are badly
worn and sadly out of adjustment. This is no wonder, considering all that
they have been through. For the last fifty years, the people who have
operated them have not been taught how to operate and maintain a press, and
the economics of the trade have allowed only a few of the presses to be
refurbished. They say that a poor workman blames his tools, but poor tools
do make it much more difficult to do good work.
         When I learned the letterpress trade, you were taught by competent
craftsmen and spent many years as an apprentice. Now, most learners take a
brief course from a person who could never have survived as a letterpress
printer. Then they practice on their own, rarely with constructive
criticism of every job. Considering how little instruction and supervised
practice most teachers and students have had, the results are often
commendable, but few of today's letterpress printers produce work that
would have been considered first rate sixty years ago.

Rupert N. Evans
Prairie Publications
101 W Windsor Road #4107
Urbana, IL 61802-6697
217-337-7833
r-evans4@staff.uiuc.edu
http://www.staff.uiuc.edu/~r-evans4/home.html
http://www.rupertfamily.com
I love to print and bind books!
Author of  "Book On Demand Publishing"

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