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metal type

Diary of a Printed Page

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Diary of a Printed Page

I must confess ~ each time a piece of paper goes into the printing press blank and emerges again filled with words, I am astonished. 

What still feels like the sudden epiphany of language out-of-nothing is not, in fact, miraculous. It is careful, collaborative craftsmanship by author and papermaker and metal-caster and printer, among others. It’s a strangely fluid movement of human and machine ~ an always-changing choreography of eye and iron, hand and fiber, thought and ink and breath. 

Joyous!

Here’s a little photo diary from today’s print run. I was printing the second color (in red) on the title page of St Brigid Press’s newest book, forthcoming in early February.

Thanks so much for joining us on this journey. All best to you all,

St Brigid Press

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How Type is Made, Part 2

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How Type is Made, Part 2

Traditional letterpress printing requires physical letters, cast from metal or carved from wood, which get inked and pressed into paper to make a print. In the last post, we took a look at the process of making type from metal (if you missed it, click here). In this installment, we’ll see how it’s created from wood.

Civil War recruitment poster.
From the International Printing Museum website.
http://www.printmuseum.org/museum/wood-type-2/

Wood came to be used as a material for making letters for printing primarily in the 1800s, when the printing and advertising industry became more widespread. Imagine trying to lift a big “Wanted”-poster-sized chase of metal type — pretty darn heavy! (See the photo of a Civil War recruitment poster.) Letters carved and routed from holly or maple were MUCH lighter, and could be made MUCH larger than their metal counterparts. 

Here at the Press, we’re fortunate to care for and print with a nice selection of wood type, most of which was made between 1875 and 1910. If used with plenty of TLC, it’ll outlast us (just like our presses)!

Here's a slide-show of some of the materials and tools used to create wood type, along with some of the type in our collection here at the Press:

A lot of vintage type, however, either went to the scrap heap decades ago, is just too damaged to print well anymore, or is too scarce and expensive for most printers to purchase. Thankfully, there are a few excellent folks who are making brand new type from wood today!

Here is a great interview (4 mins) of Geri McCormick of Virgin Wood Type (Rochester, NY), by Frank Romano.

And another great short (1 min) video of Scott Moore, of Moore Wood Type (in Ohio), making new wood type:

Want to know more about the wonderful world of wood type?

Here are some great resources ~


Thanks for joining us on this journey into type! Please sign up below for more occasional dispatches from letterpress land!

St Brigid Press

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How Type is Made, Part 1

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How Type is Made, Part 1

Traditional letterpress printing requires physical letters, cast from metal or carved from wood, which get inked and pressed into paper to make a print. In the next two blog posts, we’ll take an introductory look into how these letters get made.

First up, metal type!

A typecaster of centuries past, pouring molten metal into a mould to cast new letters. (Courtesy of the The University of Manchester Library.)

A typecaster of centuries past, pouring molten metal into a mould to cast new letters. (Courtesy of the The University of Manchester Library.)

Johann Gutenberg’s big Ah-HA! moment in the 15th century was figuring out how to create multiple letters with which to print, and print again and again — a system of “movable type,” where each piece is cast in a mould from an alloy of metals (lead, tin, and antimony). These pieces, all the letters and numbers and punctuation, etc., of the alphabet, could be used and reused — a huge savings of time, effort, and expense compared to the work of scribes!

Metal type wears down over time, because it is relatively soft, and gets scratched or dinged easily. Thankfully for us 21st century printers, some hardy folks are still casting brand new metal type!

Here's a short (1:58), awesome little video by Dave Keyes of Michael Curry casting 48pt Garamond ampersands on his caster in New Zealand:

And here’s another little window into the world of typecasting, courtesy of Michael and Winifred Bixler, who operate their Bixler Letterfoundry in upstate New York, and who have cast much of the new type we have here at St Brigid Press. This beautiful 2-minute video was done by Mary M Jones:

Some of our type comes from a wonderful foundry in Germany, run by the renowned Herr Rainer Gerstenberg. Click the photo below to see an excellent photo-tour of Gerstenberg's foundry, taken by letterpress printer and teacher Thomas Gravemaker.

The beautiful Koch-Antiqua typeface, cast for us by Rainer Gerstenberg in Germany, here printed for the colophon of our limited edition book of poems,  Soundings . Click the photo for more about Gerstenberg's foundry.

The beautiful Koch-Antiqua typeface, cast for us by Rainer Gerstenberg in Germany, here printed for the colophon of our limited edition book of poems, Soundings. Click the photo for more about Gerstenberg's foundry.

So, would YOU like to order some shiny new type?? Here's a list of foundries ready to take your order!

List of Type Foundries in the US and Abroad

Thanks for joining us, friends! We'll see you again soon,

St Brigid Press

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A Letterpress Lexicon, Part 2

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A Letterpress Lexicon, Part 2

Hi, Friends of St Brigid Press!

Here is the second installment in our occasional blog series about the words and phrases that identify printing's particular tools and processes ~ A Letterpress Lexicon. Enjoy!

(If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE.)


Today's 3 words are

TYPECASE, TYPESETTING, and COMPOSING STICK


TYPECASE:  A typecase is a wooden tray, divided up into numerous small compartments, in which the letters, numbers, and punctuation of a font of type are organized and stored. 

TYPESETTING:  This refers to the action of composing words from the individual pieces of type. A printer reaches into their typecase, picks up the desired letter, and literally "sets" it in place beside the last letter placed. 

COMPOSING STICK:  This is the tool that holds the pieces of type that are being set (or, "composed"). Usually made of brass or steel, the composing stick is held in the non-dominant hand while the typesetter lines up each desired letter. The stick is adjustable, according to how long the line of type needs to be. 

And here's a little video to put these three words together!

Thanks so much for joining us on this journey into the World of Letterpress!

If you haven't already, take a second to sign up below for our occasional newsletter, which features posts like this one, as well as updates on our printing projects here at St Brigid Press.



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