The Resurgence of Letterpress Printing

The current resurgence of letterpress printing may puzzle many techies. Like saying blacksmiths and haberdashers are really making a comeback. But it is true, letterpress (platen presses and handset type) is being celebrated again after what was thought to be its extinction. Designers love it for the hands-on experience of creating something in the physical world and consumers love it for the feeling of old world charm and exclusivity it connotes. The growth of letterpress workshops and classes has exploded all over the country and many art schools are now offering these classes. I soon hope to have a guest post from a friend who is currently taking one of these classes.

In reading about this I came across a documentary called Typeface, a film by Justine Nagan, about the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, WI. The film chronicles the preservation of and renewed interest in handset type at one of America’s great wood type printing companies. Old timers who used to work at Hamilton mix with graphic design students from Chicago who travel 175 miles north to Two Rivers to participate in workshops and use the museums working presses. It’s a fascinating look at an analog craft once thought long-dead that has been rediscovered by a digital age generation that had never known it.

The DVD is well worth purchasing, especially for the typophiles among you. I bought a copy and enjoyed it very much.Watch the trailer of the film here.

Looking at this picture of the California Job Case instantly brought back memories of this phrase: Be Careful Driving Elephants Into Small Foreign Garages. It’s one of many mnemonic devices that Mr. Little, my junior high school printshop teacher, taught us as a way of remembering the compartments in which the movable type for letterpress printing was stored. It was in this class that I first fell in love with the “graphic arts.” Thank you, Mr. Little.

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Filed under Exhibitions, Films, Graphic Design, Printing, Typography

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