Printing, Circa 1776

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Printing, Circa 1776

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a demonstration of the University of Virginia’s replica wooden common press:

The common press at the University of Virginia.

The earliest printing presses in Europe, from the time of Johannes Gutenberg and his associates Peter Schöffer and Johann Fust, were constructed primarily out of wood. Using similar technologies as contemporary agricultural presses (for winemaking, papermaking, olive oil extraction, and linen pressing), these 15th century printing presses used a wooden screw to lower a heavy wooden plate onto a bed holding cast metal type. The screw was turned by pulling a lever, or "bar" (also called the Devil's Tail ;-). Wooden common presses remained in use until the early 1800s, when iron handpresses and new types of cylinder and platen presses were developed.

Josef Beery demonstrating UVA's wooden common press.

UVA’s common press was constructed in the 1970s, as a result of research at the Smithsonian Institution on the "Franklin" common press. It is on display in the Harrison Small Building’s South Gallery. Though the bar is kept locked for safety most of the time, you can still walk right up to the press and examine much of its design and function. Occasionally, folks associated with UVA’s Rare Book School offer working demonstrations.

The session I attended last week was lead by Josef Beery ~ book designer, letterpress printer, woodcut artist, papermaker, educator, and cofounder of the Virginia Arts of the Book Center in Charlottesville. A practitioner of the printing arts for many decades, Beery is a perfect guide to the history and use of this fascinating press.

When you finish marveling at the wooden common press, head downstairs to the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library. A highlight of the Library’s wonderful collection of rare books and manuscripts (including significant holdings in the history of books and printing) is a rare first-printing of the Declaration of Independence, printed the night of July 4th by John Dunlap. It’s on permanent display along with many other early printings of the document (the world’s most comprehensive collection of these) near the Library’s entrance.

If you're ever in the vicinity of Charlottesville, Virginia, don't miss this chance to see the common press, the Declaration of Independence, and many other artifacts of printing-circa-1776!

* For more information on early American printing history, visit the American Printing History Association (APHA) website.

* To follow the fascinating process of reconstructing a wooden common press, visit Seth Gottlieb's blog post series at APHA.

* Watch Josef Beery demonstrating the traditional method of using ink balls to apply ink to the type on a common press:

Josef Beery using traditional ink balls to apply ink to the type on the University of Virginia's replica wooden common press.

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Simple Binding for Single-Section Booklets

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Simple Binding for Single-Section Booklets

Sometimes a little bit of extra effort gives a lot of extra elegance to a project. Such is the case with this style of binding a single-signature booklet to a jacket-with-a-spine. 

I learned this from the fabulous Myrna Keliher of Expedition Press, and she learned it from the wonderful printers and binders at Stern and Faye

Below is a step-by-step outline of the binding style. But first, here's a two-minute video I took in my shop, showing the basics of affixing the pamphlet-sewn booklet to the scored-and-printed jacket:

THE BASICS: 

  • Sew your single-section booklet. In my video example, it's a five-hole pamphlet stitch pattern.
  • Prepare the jacket you wish to encase your booklet in, printing any text on the cover, and scoring the paper stock where you want the folds to be. In my video example, I determined how wide I wanted the spine to be (a quarter-inch) and how wide I wanted the flaps to be (about 3 inches), then made the scores and folds. (I use an inexpensive Martha Stewart brand "scoring board" to make accurate creases.)
  • With a narrow brush (quarter-inch or so), run a thin line of glue along the back of the last sheet (your booklet's endpaper), about a half-inch in from the sewn edge.
  • Position the booklet, back (glued) page down, on the inside back jacket cover, and press gently to adhere the page to the jacket.
  • Fold in any flaps, and close the jacket over the booklet.
  • Voila! A sweet, simple, smart-looking book!

All the best to you in your own creative adventures!

St Brigid Press

*** For more information about the book shown above, A Handbook for Creative Protest: Thoreau, Gandhi, & King in Conversation, please see our post HERE.

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The Preface from "A Handbook for Creative Protest"

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The Preface from "A Handbook for Creative Protest"

Listen to author Emily Hancock read the Preface from our newest publication:

A Handbook for Creative Protest: Thoreau, Gandhi, & King in Conversation

For more information about the book, please see our post Here.

To pre-order a copy ($22), please email us ~ info@stbrigidpress.net

Join us on Sunday, July 23rd, at 2pm at Black Swan Books in Staunton for the official launch! Emily will be reading from and signing copies of the Handbook.

 

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Old Poems, New Forms

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Old Poems, New Forms

During some Spring Cleaning at the Press a few weeks ago, I rediscovered a sweet small project that had somehow gotten buried by other works-in-progress. 

“Overnight on Abiding-Integrity River”

an unfolding poem

Ancient Chinese poetry has long been an enjoyment of mine, particularly poems translated by David Hinton. And a favorite author that Hinton translates beautifully is the early T’ang Dynasty poet Meng Hao-jan (689-740 C.E.).

One of Meng’s crystalline four-line poems struck me as a lovely candidate for a miniature book. At 2-inches square and a half-inch thick, this unfolding journey is small in size but large in scope. Meng’s linked, sensory lines seemed to naturally suit themselves to a linked, tactile format.

I set the poem in metal type, printed it on my trusty foot-treadled Golding press, and cut-and-assembled the paper pieces by hand to form the book. It’s a very limited edition — just 21 books. $15 each.

If you'd like a little ancient new book of poetry, click here.

Many thanks,

St Brigid Press

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