The Art of the Letterpress

Just a couple of days at the letterpress studio at MICA had brought so much satisfaction to the end-product, which was a simple, humble, bound collection of a mighty nine pages. There was no special inking or fancy images. But somehow the particle-smothered fingers, initial cries from distributing type, and spotting of mangled words in proofs, was just enough to permit feelings of triumph at the end of it all. The process blended wonderfully to leave behind a rather pleasant recollection of memories. And I believe all this is part of the wonder of letterpress printing. Admiration of an art can develop in many forms, but the greatest comes from close-up and personal entwinement in the very process.

The hands-on aspect is such an encompassing factor of this art. From preparation to clean-up, letterpress printing involves much more physical care and precision than does digitized printing. Without automated formatting, each inclusion of type must be examined and evaluated intentionally. Nothing ends up on page without a purpose – even negative space. Although graphic designers generally follow similar principles in the design of a page, the ease of including features and the amount of tools available at hand, can easily cloud judgment and press for the more complex end of the spectrum. Letterpress printing is much more than a way to deliver information – it truly is an art.

Text tucked in furniture. Maryland Institute College of Art.

Text tucked in furniture for a Globe-inspired wood-type poster. Maryland Institute College of Art.

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