Viewing entries tagged
printing history

Women in Literature: Past, Present, & Future

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Women in Literature: Past, Present, & Future

Last week, I had the great pleasure of being a guest in a Women in Literature class at Northern Virginia Community College (Woodbridge). Professor Indigo Eriksen, a fabulous poet and teacher whom I had met some years ago at a poetry festival, invited me to show her students a simple sewn binding technique that they could use for their end-of-term chapbook projects.

"Women in Literature" students hand-sewing their first notebooks.

"Women in Literature" students hand-sewing their first notebooks.

That initial intent blossomed into spending an hour and a half with her wonderful class, sharing about the history of women in printing and publishing, sewing a couple of notebooks together, and letterpress printing a keepsake on an old traveling press. Later that afternoon, I gathered with about twenty other students in the campus auditorium to talk about poetry, writing, language, and to read a bit from my own work in The Open Gate: New & Selected Poems

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I was incredibly moved and invigorated by the engagement of these young women in the class, and the women & men at the reading. They were so present, interested and interesting, bright, and energized. They asked thoughtful, insightful questions, and deepened my own curiosity and understanding about language and literature. The students in the class took to sewing like ducks to water, and they are now part of the great lineage of women who have made a book! I am honored to have crossed paths with them all, and look forward to seeing their creative lives unfold. 

Here's a video of a happy printer ~ Janae printing her first letterpress piece on the 1930 Kelsey 3x5 press!

Here are a few photos from our conversation later that afternoon about poetry, writing, and publishing:

Here are a few slides from what I shared with the students about the history of women in printing and publishing. It's a long and vibrant history, one that they are now a part of!

Many, many thanks to Professor Indigo Eriksen, the fantastic students at Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge, and Deans David Epstein & Michael Turner for inviting me to spend a wonderful afternoon with them!

All best wishes to all, 

Emily Hancock

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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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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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A Letterpress Lexicon, Part 1

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A Letterpress Lexicon, Part 1

Hi, dear Friends of St Brigid Press,

As many of you know, I love language. And one of the things that has been exceedingly enjoyable about learning the craft of traditional printing is learning its associated lexicon ~ the words and phrases that identify printing's particular tools and processes.

In this occasional blog series, "A Letterpress Lexicon," I thought I'd share with you some of my favorites. Enjoy!

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Today's three words are

CHASE, FURNITURE, and QUOIN

CHASE:  A chase is an iron or steel rectangular frame into which the type to be printed is placed. After the type is secured, the chase is lifted into the bed of the printing press, the type is inked, and an impression is made upon paper.

FURNITURE:  Wooden or metal furniture is used to surround the block of type within the chase, taking up any extra space between type and chase edge. Wooden furniture, such as we use here at St Brigid Press, is traditionally made from kiln-dried hardwoods, and comes in standard sizes to fit the job.

QUOIN:  A quoin is an adjustable metal wedge used to tighten and "lock" the type and furniture in the chase. Although there are a variety of styles, all quoins operate with the basic principle of applying pressure to secure the form, allowing the chase to be safely lifted into the printing press.

And here's a short little video that puts all these pieces together!

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