Before eBooks and all-things-digital, before laser printers, before photocopiers or typewriters, how in the world did the written word get into print? Well, slowly and carefully, letter by hand-selected letter.
In the Western world, we usually associate Johannes Gutenberg with the development of the printing press in about 1450. Other cultures, notably in Korea and China, had also developed printing techniques by this time. The brilliant idea that Gutenberg also employed was moveable type. By casting, in relatively hard metal, multiples of each letter of the alphabet, the printer could set the text for a given project, print it, redistribute the metal letters and spaces in their cases, and set another text. This was, like the invention of paper itself, REVOLUTIONARY.
In the centuries since Gutenberg, letterpress printing has continued to evolve and innovate, but its hallmark has remained the same -- the tactile, lush kiss of type upon paper, the physical sculpture of language that becomes manifest before our eyes. At St Brigid Press, we are committed to practicing and to passing on this craft tradition, working with hand-set type and elegant old presses to bring words into being.
If you'd like to know more about the history of printing and about the letterpress process, there are a host of great websites to learn from. Here are a few to get you started:
- Briar Press, a Letterpress Community
- Five Roses Press, introduction to letterpress printing
- Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum (Two Rivers, Wis.)
- The Museum of Printing (Andover, Mass.)
Thanks, and all the best,
St Brigid Press