The Art of Letterpress Printing
The concept of letterpress printing has been around since the introduction of moveable type to the western world, way back in the 1400’s, by Johannes Gutenberg.
Traditionally, the process involved using pieces of wood or lead with a raised surface, known as movable type. There were individual pieces of type for each letter and symbol. These were once composed by hand into words and sentences, paragraphs and even full pages (a very laborious task), before being locked into a frame, then inked and pressed onto paper.
While the design of printing presses evolved considerably over the following six hundred years, the basic principles remained the same, right up until the introduction of offset and digital printing, which left letterpress almost redundant. By the 1990’s letterpress was almost completely gone, and many of the presses had been sent to scrap.
Luckily for us though, a small but dedicated group of craftsmen and artists kept the craft alive, and we began to see a resurgence of platen presses coming out of dingy shed corners or disused newspaper offices to be put into production once more.
Though the idea of using lead type as was done back in the day is a romantic notion (and one we’d love to honour more in the future), we tend to use a more modern approach to our designs, utilising photopolymer printing plates. With this technology, we are no longer limited to basic designs and fonts – we are now limited only by our imagination (or yours).
Thus we combine old world machinery and modern technology to create our own unique slice of history, all wrapped up in a brown paper package, tied up with string (…these are a few of our favourite things).
Our lovely old girl is 118 years old, and still young, producing stunning letterpress prints.
Built in 1897 by Golding and Co of Massachusetts, the jobber is testimony to the workmanship of the time. This is a classic platen press, hand fed and powered by foot treadle and a flywheel – no motor in sight (which makes for very good leg muscles). When it comes to troubleshooting on this machine however, we often wonder how many profanities have been hurled in the press’s direction over the last century.
Another piece of German ingenuity, along with the humble Frankfurt and the classic Volkswagen Beetle, the Heidelberg T Platen revolutionised the early 20th Century printing industry.
In its original form, this press debuted in 1913 with its famous automatic feeding mechanism known for its windmill like motion, allowing for quick and seamless production.