Viewing entries tagged
printing press

Diary of a Printed Page


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. 


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



POST-A-POEMS! Celebrating National Poetry Month

Post-A-Poem Trio Greetings and Happy Spring, Friends!

Just in time for the start of National Poetry Month on Tuesday, St Brigid Press has created pre-paid postcards featuring three wonderful poems by Emily Dickinson. These cards are hand-set and letterpress printed in lovely colors on our 1909 Golding Pearl treadled press. The back of the USPS-compliant cards have plenty of space for your personalized note, and include the postage stamp.

To order direct, click HERE. If you are in the Waynesboro, Virginia area, pick up these postcards at Stone Soup Books.

Share the gift of poetry this month  ~  POST-A-POEM!

All best to all,

St Brigid Press

Setting the poems by hand, with metal type.

Three poems, three great colors: deep-lavender, spring-green, and orange-sherbet!

Each postcard is pre-paid and ready to mail!

"Pink, small, and punctual…" by Emily Dickinson, letterpress printed in deep-lavender.

"A Word…" by Emily Dickinson, letterpress printed in spring-green.

"He ate the precious words…" by Emily Dickinson, letterpress printed in orange-sherbet.




Coaster Contemplations

Schwaner Coasters Set

Hello dear Friends,

As the first real chilly weather arrives outside, we're workin' up a sweat inside the Shop ~ treadling our 1914 Chandler and Price printing press to bring you some contemplative coasters to slip under your glass of holiday cheer!

The back of the coasters, with the haiku series' title, author name, and colophon.

Poet Jeff Schwaner, author of three collections of poetry, has written a wonderful sequence of eight linked haiku entitled "Night Walk on Cape Cod." Originally published in his book, Vanishing Tracks, Schwaner recently approached St Brigid Press with the notion of letterpress printing the haiku as a set of coasters. Needless to say, we thought the idea brilliant, and set to work composing the lovely poems in metal type. Here's a taste of the depth and elegiac beauty of Schwaner's work:


Write about home she

said ~ many journeys later

I write about her


Schwaner Coasters Wine Glass Stem


Every walk

Is a walk with a stranger

Identity's tides


The first haiku in the set of eight.

Each haiku, a thoughtful little cosmos in itself, is thematically and emotionally linked with its seven companions, telling the heart's story of home, memory, and connection-through-time. All of which are fine musings to mull over a glass of wine, tea, hot chocolate, or spiced rum, and which are -- like a cup of coffee -- good to the last drop.

Each set of 8 haiku coasters (one for each poem) were designed, hand-set, and letterpress printed here in the Shop on extra-thick coaster stock. The coasters are durable, reusable, colorfast, and, when the final red wine stain at last obscures the poetry, fully recyclable and biodegradable. The top side, with haiku, are printed in dark green; the bottom side, with title, sequence number, author and printer names, is printed in deep blue. Limited edition. $16 per set-of-eight coasters.

To order from the St Brigid Press Store, click HERE.

Many thanks to Jeff Schwaner for a fun and meaningful collaboration. And all the best to each of you for a peaceful week,

St Brigid Press

Here's a video of the printing of the coasters, plus more photos of the process and the product:


Hand-mixing the deep green oil-based ink for the front (poem-side) of the coasters.

Each poem in the eight-coaster set, plus the back, is hand-set with metal type.

Letterpress printed on the foot-treadled Chandler and Price 10x15 NS printing press, which was made in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914.

Each poem is good to the last drop ;-)



So, what IS "letterpress printing" anyway??

An American-made handpress from the late 1800s, a descendant of the style used by Gutenberg.


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.

Printing office, circa 1560.

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.

Setting the type for the Introduction in

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:

Thanks, and all the best,

St Brigid Press

The gentle impression of inked metal type upon paper.
Yours truly printing with an iron handpress at Penland School of Crafts. (photo by Lari Gibbons)
Rolling the ink carefully over the type forme.



Raptors and Wood Type Fun

Hawk Poster on press


Warm Greetings from St Brigid Press!

Well, it's that time of year again -- the cooling days of late summer and early fall that provide the impetus for some of the most spectacular mass-movements of species on the planet:  the annual migration of hawks and other raptors from North America to Central and South America. Those of us in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains are fortunate to live along a major flyway -- the updrafts along the spine of the mountains support a bird highway from Canada and New England south toward the Gulf of Mexico. And Rockfish Gap, near our home in Afton, Virginia, is one of the best locations in the East to watch this magnificent flow of raptors.

To commemorate the birds and the hundreds of people who gather to witness them, I spent the last week joyfully rummaging through the 20+ cases of wood type here at the Press. Most of the type was made in the US between 1875 and 1910, and still in very good condition. The idea for the design this year came from the list of raptors that the official Hawk Watch Counters tally -- there are fourteen species for which they scan the skies, from Broad-winged Hawks (the most numerous) to the rare Mississippi Kite. Other species include Ospreys, Falcons, Eagles, and many different kinds of Hawks. I set the names of all fourteen raptor species in various typefaces of wood type, creating a fun collage of avians.

Each poster is hand-inked and printed on the Potter Proofing Press (circa 1915, Chicago). Paper is Stonehenge Rising Fawn, with oil-based ink in either deep blue or deep green, in 12"x18" size. The posters were printed in a limited edition of 35, all signed and numbered. Each is backed by stiff board and sleeved in protective archival plastic. Price: $30 each, with 20% of the proceeds being donated by St Brigid Press to The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia. To purchase, go to the St Brigid Press Online Store.

With thanks, and enjoy the beautiful days!

St Brigid Press

[ For more information about hawk migration, go to ]

Beginning to assemble the names of 14 raptor species, in various typefaces and sizes of vintage wood type. Quite the challenging puzzle!

St Brigid Press is honored to have collected over 20 cases of wood type, most made in the United States between 1875 and 1910.

Checking and rechecking the fit of the type forme, making sure each letter and space are snugly in their place.

Getting the ink well-distributed on the roller.

Rolling the ink carefully over the type forme.

Checking and rechecking the final proof.

Signing, numbering, and packaging the 2013 Hawk Watch Poster.