We’ve finally got round to updating the type list on our web site. It was a bit fiddly but quite simple once we found out how to do it. Next time we buy new type there’ll be no excuse not to put it on the list right away.
Archive for August, 2009
This may be churlish, but there is one aspect of the current revival of interest in letterpress that bothers us. Impression. Or rather, excessive impression.
Often now our customers want their printing heavily pressed into the page. We can understand it: they’re usually paying a premium to use us, and they can reasonably expect to get something extra. Such is the demand that Crane’s have produced their Lettra range of uncalendered papers. Soft and textured, they take impression very nicely and are, as the lager ads used to say, reassuringly expensive.
A couple of months ago we printed business cards for someone who said they weren’t ‘letterpressed properly’ because we hadn’t produced a braille-like surface. There seems to be such an expectation now of unsubtle printing that we’re often unsure how a new customer is going to receive our work.
We always do our best to oblige when asked to thump the paper. It involves us balancing the customer’s instruction with producing a sharp, clean image. Pushing extra hard on the plate (we never do this to our type) can produce distortion, especially at corners.
We explained to our dissatisfied client that printing you can feel as well as see is a recent fashion. We have read that the history of letterpress in the industrial age can be seen as the story of the elimination of impression. If a machine minder of, say, the 1960s saw work like that in our photograph you could expect the air to turn blue.
What, you might ask, is the point of letterpress without impression? As another customer said recently, we deliver blacker blacks and denser colours than litho. When we work with metal and wood rather than plates you get the qualities, good and bad, of the design of the type and the physical limitations of putting it together.
If you ask us to print something that shows through on the other side we’ll do it the best we can. We like the traditions of our trade, though. We talk about cases and galleys, not drawers and trays. When we’re left to our own devices we like our type to kiss the paper just the way our machines were made to do it.
The current edition of Ultrabold, the journal of the Friends of St Bride, includes an article Phil wrote based on his talk at Letterpress, A Celebration last November. We’ve put the text online here, but we’d like you to get the real thing if you haven’t already. That way you help to support the library and get the photographs in a larger size and higher resolution.
We never got round to putting a proper sign in our window when we moved here to Pinchin Street. We had a print of our logo in 72 pt which we stuck to the door with Sellotape. That was ok, but recently we noticed that the red had faded to a pale orange.
Now we’ve had it changed, as you can see. We rather like it.
We will once again be at the Whittington Summer Show this year. It takes place on 5 September, and you can see the gorgeous poster here. The illustrations were hand stenciled by Miriam Macgregor, and we think it’s worth going just for the chance of picking one up.
As last year, we’ll be on the proofing press. We are currently putting together some type for a poster which we’ll be taking with us so that those who want to can print their own copy. We’ll have other posters too, as well as books and cards.