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A Look at Letterpress

04 Aug 2004 by Ryan Singer

This Quicktime micro-documentary from TypeCulture is a great look at how letterpress works and why it’s special. Beautiful type examples abound, but you have to suffer through some pretensious arrhythmic narration (in a William Shatner-meets-your-English-professor kinda way).

The interviewed press proprietor has a great perspective on the impending death of letterpress: “It’s OK — I’m only responsible for my watch. I’m thankful every day that I get to do this.”

11 comments so far (Post a Comment)

04 Aug 2004 | JF said...

Chills... Chills... There are few pleasures like the pleasure of watching someone who really cares about their craft.

04 Aug 2004 | Brad Hurley said...

The press proprietor's perspective (how's that for alliteration) reminded me of a quote from the Vermont letterpress printer and artist Brian Cohen:

"I am attracted to large, futile, and obsolete things."

04 Aug 2004 | SH said...

The covers of first edition hardbacks of Dave Egger's You Shall Know Our Velocity! were made by letterpress, and I'll never forget getting that package in the mail, opening it to find such a beautiful book, words pressed so deep into the cover that you could feel them. Even now the design of the book still amazes me, I only wish there were more like it.

Truly inspiring. "People don't make things anymore."

04 Aug 2004 | Darrel said...

Letterpress isn't dying at all. In fact, it's on a resurgence.

I worked at a small design firm. When the dot-bomb happened, the web work dried up, but the firm is still going strong specializing in letterpress.

words pressed so deep into the cover that you could feel them.

FYI, this is technically a sign of BAD lettepress. (But perhaps good embossing).

Letterpress, when done correctly, SHOULDN'T be felt at all. However, the design trend these days is to emphasize the fact that it WAS letterpress by smashing the type into the paper. Graphic designers love it. Old-school letterpress printers cringe.

04 Aug 2004 | DaveMo said...

Exactly Darrel! You could always tell when someone had the platten set too hard sometime in the past when your galley proof had words with missing letters in them!

I learned graphics and printing by setting little pieces of type upside down and backward when I was about 10 years old. Just the mention of "letterpress" brings back fond memories of the smell of the ink and the clanking of the press platten! (And being quick enough to grab the print after it was printed!)

If I had the money and space I would buy one or two of these and as many type trays of type as I could and that would be my hobby.

Since the "Desktop Publishing" revolution arrived, I don't know how many times I've had to explain why 12 point type isn't 12 points when you measure it on the page to younger designers! (and what "leading" really was and kearning with a file!)

Anyway, how pleasently surprised I was! I thought "letterpress" here was going to be about some blogging or other software application! Brought back some neat memories, now I'll never get anything done today!


04 Aug 2004 | Blake Scarbrough said...

I like seeing that there are people that still have a passion for their work. Will that be us in 30 years, sticking to our passions or moving in a new direction?

04 Aug 2004 | Coudal said...

Here's a companion video about Bird Machine and their approach to the craft of screen-printing. Great link Ryan.

05 Aug 2004 | Adam Codega said...

While the machine was only used for numbering and perforating this video brought back memories of the Heidelberg letter press that my shop had back in high school. Both videos are excellent. The second one reminded me of my college days. (Okay so those days aren't over yet..)

10 Aug 2004 | Rajsamand said...

Nice Movie!! Great Work, Few things are going to be there for ever.

30 Jan 2005 | compatelius said...

bocigalingus must be something funny.

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