The Art of Letterpress

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Hello DIY dancer readers! Thanks to the lovely Candice, over the next few weeks I will be enlightening you on the process of letterpress and making a book, which I learned in my Hand Produced Book class this past fall semester.  This first entry will cover my introduction to letterpress.

First off, I'd like to say what an incredible but tedious process bookmaking is.  However, what is so cool about letterpress is that it is the process books, newspapers, posters, or anything with type was produced back in the day. Most of the letterpress equipment and parts were discontinued in the 80's. The University of Nebraska at Omaha's book arts lab was fortunate enough to receive gorgeous equipment from the Douglas Printing Co. and other type foundries. At the beginning of class in the lab, we explored the drawers and drawers of all different sizes and typefaces of metal type. There are drawers and drawers of ancient odds and ends for embellishment, such as tiny flowers, fluer de leis, different styles of bullet points and asterisks, images, and detailed and intricate borders. It was quite overwhelming, but amazing to discover so many treasures of the past that are still being used. What is so exciting about the art of Letterpress, is the huge revival of it going on right now in the stationery industry. Click here to check out a cute little book that shows examples of Letterpress studios around the country.

Our first assignment was to create a broadsheet with type that we hand set from a passage about a certain category of Letterpress. Some people had ink, the Avant Garde of Letterpress, the physicality of Letterpress, different types of presses, etc. I had a passage about the Pearl press. It was quite a long passage, and I had the most difficult time setting it, because we had to set it justified!! This is incredibly difficult when you are dealing with something physical and on a small scale, and not just telling the computer to make all your text justified. Below is a gallery (just click on a thumbnail to enlarge image) of my hand set type, inking the type with the roller (beautiful teal ink appears sheer and metallic on the roller!) and printing my broadsheet. In order for it to print forwards, all the type is backwards, and you have to set it backwards as well. I know how to read upside down and backwards after that! After I printed 25 editions, I had to remove all the type from the press bed, and insert my title into the bed in order to print it in another color. It took forever! But everyone in the class got a copy of everyone else's broadsheets, so it was worth it. Stay tune–next week I will show you the first steps in the process of making my book and illustrating it!

Happy dancing and art-making,


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  • nicole

    Fascinating! Thanks, Emily!

  • Stephanie

    This is so awesome Emily. Please keep us updated on the ins and outs of book making!


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