The Magic That Is Letterpress
Some of you digital age kids ;) may not recognize what the images in our introductory post are, so maybe there's some 'splaining to do. The top image are wood type letters; the bottom one shows metal type. They are used in letterpress, a dwindling printing technique that nevertheless still counts many fervent admirers.
"Letterpress puts a bite into the paper; there's a three-dimensional quality that no other printing method can equal."
But what better way to demonstrate what exactly letterpress is than by simply showing the printing presses and the people operating them in action? Because, as John Kristensen, proprietor of Firefly Press from Somerville, Massachusetts, testifies, "Ultimately it is the process. What the the printer loves is the doing of it." Below is a wonderful short film by Chuck Kraemer, who filmed John Kristensen and his apprentice at work.
Video from Elsa Dorfman found via I Love Typography
The video is a touching testimony to a vanishing art. But as John Kristensen expresses, "It will die – eventually – because people will no longer remember how to do it. It's OK. I'm only responsible for my watch. I'm thankful every day that I get to do this." Moving stuff.
And for the font spotters among you, the video features cameos by Garamont/Garamond No. 3, Cochin, Bodoni, Bembo, Michelangelo, Bulmer, and Perpetua, amongst others, and assorted borders and ornaments.
See the video in full resolution on Vimeo.
header imageSmall letterpress shop in Pt. Reyes Station, California, August 2003.
© J. Lurie-Terrell