The Beauty of Letterpress is a website that celebrates letterpress printing and its creators with the first virtual, community-based gallery of modern letterpress samples and resources. The Gallery is curated by a different letterpress aficionado each month.
The Beauty of Letterpress Gallery presents letterpress work from notable letterpress printers, designers, and artisans from around the country including Rohner Letterpress, Studio on Fire, Two Paperdolls, and Mama’s Sauce. The site features selections from a new curator each month. Letterpress history, context, educational information, community connections and a list of letterpress printers round out the site.
Letterpress printing continues its renaissance in the digital age because of its extraordinary beauty and tactility. “When art or type is pressed into sumptuous paper, it creates a physical impression that simply begs to be touched,” said Tom Wright, senior director of advertising and design for Neenah Paper. “ We believe the extraordinary, communicative power of letterpress printing and the community of people who make it happen deserve a special place The Beauty of Letterpress celebrates and honors the modernity of this 500-year old craft.”
While developing this virtual letterpress home for the 21 st century, the creators could not help but consider the physical move of Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum (woodtype.org) the landmark institution preserving the rich history and assets of letterpress dating to the birth of letterpress in the 15th century. The Beauty of Letterpress launches with a Neenah Paper, Inc. initiative to help raise $30,000 in funds for the Museum’s move through matching donations and gifts of limited edition prints to designers, letterpress printers and admirers of this craft.
A recent Thursday at 10:23 a.m.: In the basement of Arion Press, where they still print books the old-fashioned way, Lewis Mitchell slid open a box of parts used to change the font size on the Monotype casting machines he has maintained for 62 years.
“I thoroughly enjoy the sound of the machines turning, and seeing the type come out is a joy,” Mitchell said.
He can tell by the sound of the moving springs and levers if something is awry with his machines — a skill he said all good technicians should have. Four different owners have run the business since Mitchell walked through the doors at age 18, and he has had several opportunities to leave, including a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that he declined. Now 80, Mitchell can’t imagine retiring from the job he loves so much.
When Mitchell started making this kind of type, it was really the only way to print things, and now he doesn’t know how many books he’s helped print over the decades. There were once type-casting operations in most major U.S. cities, but now the practice is almost extinct. There are only two companies left in the world that cast type for printing presses, and Arion is by far the largest.
Mitchell has four grown children and nine grandchildren, but he calls the 20 type-casting machines his “babies.” “I treat them with kindness. I don’t use a hammer on them or an oversized screwdriver.” The first machine, which started the company during 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, is still its best machine — proof that Mitchell’s methods work. “My dad taught me from square one if you going to do something, you’re going to do it right or you don’t do it.”
Bleisatz Werkstatt Tutorial, a brilliant film based on a seminar from The University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf called “Hot Type – Hand and Work.”
Video Production: Lukas Loss & Roman Tönjes
Sound Design: Roman Tönjes
For you in London, don’t miss the Letterpress Matters exhibition and workshops, 3-7 July 2007 at Camberwell College of Arts:
It is no coincidence that type was traditionally referred to as matter. In a time when the last generation of professionally-trained compositors are retiring, Letterpress Matters, as part of the Postgraduate Summer Show 2007 at Camberwell College of Arts, explores the inherent material nature of letterpress and celebrates its new possibilities in our ever more digitally-engaged contemporary culture.
… The integrity of letterpress lies in its material and physical process. Therefore, involving the audience as much as I myself am involved in the hands-on printing process is crucial. So come and join a guided tour of the letterpress workshop at our very own Camberwell College of Arts. With the rich history of the Camberwell Press and the technical expertise of Ian Primarolo, the letterpress workshop is now a rare and inimitable place.
A letterpress printer who makes affordable art (6 min. video). Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. is a letterpress printer, papermaker and builder of artist’s books. His work embodies his passion for stirring up strong emotions andencouraging people to think in previously unexplored ways. Only his friends know that in a past life he was a computer programmer and can thus juggle digital and analog at will. In addition to his work as a bookbuilder, he is an educator and performance artist and currently the Artist in Residence at the Coleman Center of York, Alabama.
Printing is what we do. You send the text and a check, and go home and pray. We do not know what will happen until we are at the press. The design of your poster is determined in real time. Sometimes we produce beautiful posters and at other times we produce BEAUTIFUL posters. [...]
Typeforyou is a blog on typography bringing you news and interviews from around the web.
“The purpose of typography is to build a bridge from one mind to another. The nature and quality of that bridge determines what travels across it” Bruce Mau