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Re: [BKARTS] Fairly recent articles

Time Magazine 9/06  renaissance of letterpress printing

But I think you may mean this article from the New York Times - please
excuse that I have pasted the entire article here - it's archived and some
people may not be able to access the link without signing onto the NYT site
and I didn't want to force anyone to do that.


Sea Maiden Press

So here it is:

December 10, 2006
Retro Printers, Grounding the LaserJet


MY love affair with letterpress aptly began with a man named Art.

I was walking home one day last spring when I saw an older gentleman on a
corner selling old metal type and pre-World War II copper illustrations.
Art, who never gave his last name, had recently bought them from a printing
shop that was going out of business. After sifting through the images for an
hour, I left with a box of treasures and a promise from Art to find more of
the letters for my name.

Over the summer, whenever he acquired something promising he would call and
say: ³Meet me on the corner. I got you some H¹s.² Together we sorted through
the trays, gleeful whenever a jewel emerged from the ink-stained rubble.
Later, with a growing trove of images and letters, I set about finding a
printer who could bring the images to life. I did not figure that the
printer would be me.

I am not alone in my newfound interest. Letterpress, which became obsolete
in the 1980s with the rise of desktop publishing, is experiencing a
resurgence as artists and consumers rediscover the allure of hand-set type.
It is still a specialty craft. But at the San Francisco Center for the Book,
nearly 30 percent of the 300 workshops offered this year are letterpress
classes, many of them added in the last few years.

Claudia Laub, a well-known Hollywood printer, said she had doubled the
number of private studio classes she offers since she began them five years
ago. And the six weekly letterpress classes at the Armory Center for the
Arts in Pasadena, Calif., are among its most popular.

It is a surprising turn at a time when computers make it so easy ? and fast
? to design individualized note cards and stationery. But art experts say
this new interest in the specialized craft is a reaction to the slick design
and flat graphics common in computer publishing.

And it is more feasible now for hobbyists with access to a press: many
shuttered print shops are selling old presses and rare type, while expanding
paper chain stores like Paper Source offer a wider variety of affordable
papers in different colors and textures.

³Letterpress is like the new engraving,² said Kitty Maryatt, director of the
Scripps College Press and an assistant professor of art. ³It looks
different. It feels old. It¹s tactile. People love that. It is the romance
of the impression of the letter pressed into paper that people feel good

Steve Woodall, the artistic director at the San Francisco Center for the
Book, sees a rising interest in design. ³Creative people who stare at a
computer all day want to use their hands,² he said. ³There is also the
do-it-yourself thing. People like to make things.²

Elizabeth Witt is one of those people. She began taking letterpress classes
at the Armory in Pasadena with an eye toward hand printing the invitations
for her wedding next June. ³It¹s the first impression anyone will have of my
wedding,² she said. ³I¹m very into antiques, and I like old things.²

She recently joined two Internet chat groups for letterpress enthusiasts.
And when she told a college friend about her new hobby, she learned that he
and his wife had recently bought a press, so together they will make her

Ms. Witt also decided to make personalized stationery for her six
bridesmaids. ³It¹s nice to have your own stationery,² she said. ³Not many
people do. It¹s better than an e-mail.²

For centuries after Johann Gutenberg first printed a Bible, around 1455,
individually hand-set metal type was the industry standard. It fell out of
favor, though, with the advent of the linotype machine in the late 1800s,
which made it possible for printers to cast whole lines from molten lead.
(This is commonly referred to as hot type.)

After World War II offset printing gained favor with commercial printers,
hastening the demise of hand-set type. Then desktop publishing, which also
revived interest in different typefaces, allowed anyone with a computer to
become a publisher.

Ms. Laub said that her students are often hobbyists or entrepreneurs who
want to start their own greeting card lines. Her home studio is a jumble of
boxes stuffed with paper and drawers filled with metal, copper and wood
letters and images, including an unused wooden alphabet bought from the
daughter of a printer.

The hands-on experience she provides is not cheap: Ms. Laub charges $600 for
three four-hour sessions. That is more than twice what the Armory costs,
$285 for 10 two-and-a-half-hour classes. At the San Francisco Center, a
one-day intensive beginner class is $125.

³We have people come from all over: New York, Philadelphia, even Alaska,²
said Mr. Woodall at the 10-year-old center, which allows students to rent
its presses after they have taken classes. Five couples, he added, have
bought their own presses and started their own companies.

The most commonly used machines are those that were popular more than 50
years ago: the Chandler & Price platen press and the Vandercook proof press.
Bought from a printing shop going out of business, or from on-line sources,
they can cost $3,000 or more.

The Chandler & Price platen press, manufactured from the late 1880s to the
mid-1950s, is the workhorse of the letterpress studio. Type is locked into a
frame called a chase. The chase is then placed in a bed, ready for printing.
Wide rollers pass over a large inked disc and apply a thin layer of ink to
the type. Paper is then placed on a flat surface, called a platen, and
pressed against the bed like a clamshell.

The appeal of the machine, which runs on electricity, is its speed. Even a
novice can print up to 100 sheets in 10 minutes. An experienced printer can
do twice that, reinking frequently depending on the size of the image or
text. Still, while the process looks deceptively gentle, the press employs
enough pressure to crush errant fingers.

The Vandercook press is less fearsome, though equally powerful. It was
designed nearly 100 years ago by Robert O. Vandercook, but later versions
are favored today. Rollers (with paper attached) are moved along a track
over the inked type, which is in a flat bed. The rollers are operated by a
crank. The machine prints more slowly than the platen press but is favored
for oversize posters and limited-edition books.

Once the machine has been mastered, the fun part begins: laying type. Each
word is painstakingly constructed with individual letters, which are
generally stored in thin drawers in tall wood cabinets. While there are
thousands of typefaces, Ms. Laub said Garamond, an old-style typeface, is a
favorite among her clients. (I preferred Huxley Vertical, for its Art Deco

Not every paper is a good candidate for letterpress. Most experts agree that
paper with a soft texture, made mostly from cotton or linen, is the most
desirable. For top-end clients Ms. Laub buys specialty paper from companies
in the Czech Republic or Italy, as well as from some in the United States.
For hobbyists she recommends mass-market Italian paper, which accepts ink
readily and can be found at art stores.

I was partial to Fabriano¹s Medioevalis paper and Arturo Fine Stationery,
which have an attractive untrimmed edge and are thicker than regular paper,
allowing for a noticeable impression.

Whether to leave a deep impression, however, is subject to debate. Purists
say no. ³But people today want to see that,² Ms. Laub conceded.

The issue didn¹t bother my friend Kathryn Hilton, who was thrilled with the
personalized cards I had made for her. She especially liked the ³H,²
reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts style.

Art had found that letter for me. He would have been pleased.

On 2/19/07 9:03 AM, "Kelly Chandler" <kelly@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Earlier in the year & maybe even late last fall, I read on-line some
> articles about the resurgence college & universities teaching letterpress
> printing. Unfortunately, I didn't print out any of them. Does anyone have
> the original links or can point me in the right direction? I greatly
> appreciate any help.
> Best wishes,
> Kelly 
> Kelly Chandler
> Director of the Antiquarian Department
> Oak Knoll Books
> 310 Delaware St., New Castle De 19720
> P: 302.328.7232 F: 302.328.7274
> http://www.oakknoll.com
> Member Antiquarian Bookseller's Association of America ( ABAA)
> http://www.abaa.org
> International league of Antiquarian Booksellers
> (ILAB)http://www.ilab-lila.com
>              ***********************************************
>          The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
>                  <http://www.philobiblon.com/bonefolder>
> Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
>    <http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byorg/gbw/gallery/100anniversary/>
>              For all your subscription questions, go to the
>                       Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
>           See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information
>              ***********************************************

         The Bonefolder, Vol. 3, No. 1, Fall 2006 Now Online at
Guild of Book Workers' 100th Anniversary Exhibition Online - Catalog Available
             For all your subscription questions, go to the
                      Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive.
          See <http://www.philobiblon.com> for full information

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