Friday, March 26, 2010

Letterpress Printing

Sara McCoy & Connie Wilson's
Presentation and Demonstration
Letterpress Printing
Tuesday March 23, 2010
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Third Floor Carnegie Hall
Drake University; Des Moines, Iowa, USA


Lecture notes:

To begin her presentation, Sarah McCoy provided a handout with information about the terminology for letterpress printing. The handout included terms related to letter blocks and a diagram of a California drawer, where blocks are kept and shelved in a cabinet for printing.

Sarah briefly outlined the history of early type, including the Gutenberg metal movable type. Germany, France, and Italy were countries where the publishing industry began. Early European printers introduced the possibilities of editing by printing machine-made editions. From this early printing industry modern publicity was developed. With the invention of movable type came the spread of knowledge.

Sarah McCoy also described the development of wood type, and how it came from Europe to the U.S. Two major figures in the application of this technology were Darius Wells and James Hamilton, whose type creation and collection are now housed in the Museum of Wood Type in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The Hamilton Museum has a collection of 1.5 million pieces of wood type.

During her presentation, Connie Wilson spoke of her family tradition in printmaking beginning with her grandfather, who used to work as a typesetter for the Fort Scott Newspaper in Kansas. Newspapers used to publish prefab pages and local communities would add the local news. Her grandmother also worked in the advertisement industry making calendars using offset printing for graphics and adding booklets for the monthly calendars.

Connie also distributed a handout and passed around the audience (of about 20 participants) pieces of metal types. The participants touched and appreciated the metal type. Connie's handout included links to websites about letterpress printing.

She also talked about the history of the Hatch Show Print in Nashville, TN and showed a book with samples of the work done by the Hatch printing house. Connie mentioned that the use of manual or mechanical printing presses was dying because most of the publishing work is now done digitally. However, she said that there is a revival in letterpress printing due to the appeal of the raised letter marks that adds texture to the paper.

After Sarah's and Connie's presentations, they demonstrated the use of the composing sticks for letterpress printing. Their presentation was followed by a hands-on printing of a poster with big red and brown wood type letters that reads "Spring Time in Iowa!"

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