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Challenge MP15

 

Preserve Letterpress

We are constantly looking for more letterpress type, equipment and any other letterpress gadgets. Since new technology is now more common, much of the type and equipment for letterpress has been discarded and/or lost. However, some still exists, and we are passionate to find these letterpress materials and preserve its heritage.

 

If you have any wood or lead type, letterpress equipment or leads of where some could be found, please contact us and we can bring these historic design pieces back to life.

From Grapes to Letterpress

Before our technology-driven culture had the luxuries of light-weight portable iPads, iPhones, digital cameras, Flip cameras … and the list goes on … people actually had to rely on craftsmanship.  Prior to the mass production of the Twilight book series or People Magazine, which is easily printed by the millions with the touch of one button, individuals had to hand write their thoughts, stories, reports, business transactions etc. Yes, technology is efficient and impressive, but it’s important not to lose sight of history and keep classic craftsmanship alive today.

In the past, people had to hand produce what they sold - books, art and news stories, etc. Considering the demand of time to create pieces of art and hand write each individual book, these items were rather expensive to acquire. The ability to purchase a book now is much easier and cost friendly, but we need to give thanks to the beginning technologies that made our way of life possible. The applause goes to the invention of movable type and the letterpress. This machine allowed for news to be read from newspapers, stories to be recorded and not simply told by word of mouth and effective advertising to be produced. The letterpress machine is one of the greatest changes in political history.

"The resurgence and popularity of letterpress is not unexpected, since designers use past trends to reinvent and spark creative within their work,”said Kevin Smith, a visual communication professor at Auburn University and the owner of createTWO, a studio focused on branding, interactive web design and print - including letterpress. “What was once old is now new again, because recent generations are reacting to the age of technology and wanting to get back in touch with something tactile and unique. Letterpress has given today’s designers a tangible artifact that digital media cannot provide.”

In the 1440s, it was Johannes Gutenberg who invented the letterpress machine that used separate, hand-carved letters and images. The inked, wooden blocks were then arranged correctly on the machine to be pressed onto paper and thus generated a page of type and images. Gutenburg, who lived in Mainz, Germany where running a winery was very popular, had the idea to create a letterpress machine by a very familiar process. He knew extracting juices from grapes made wine, and in that same image he wanted to create a machine where letters could be pressed onto paper to produce text.

From the thoughts of grapes to letterpress, Gutenburg’s letterpress invention spread rapidly across Europe. Then, being able to produce newspapers and books more quickly, the cost of purchasing them became cheaper. The percentage of people who could read drastically increased due to the availability of print materials and the general public were able to find accurate news stories.

“Letterpress has a physical tie to our history, but interestingly it has not changed that much and the process is basically the same,” said John Morgan, graphic design professor at Auburn University and a colleague of Smith. “The equipment and theory that Gutenburg created is remarkably so similar to what letterpress specialists still do today, yet its invention was a dominant force that changed the world.”

Letterpress allowed people to develop typed books, record stories and spread news. As education and technology began to advance throughout the centuries, so did printing techniques. In the 1952, the efficiency and speed of the first high-speed printer was developed, which pushed letterpress printing to the back corner.

Even though we are a very technology driven society, and computers are obviously the practical and ideal way of generating print, letterpress has not died. In the 1990s, the art of letterpress underwent a revival in the US, Canada and UK, which is referred to as the Small Press Movement. This movement was generated by the queen of crafts, Martha Stewart, when she showcased letterpressed wedding invitation in her various magazines. People fell in love with the authentic style of letterpress just as many admire engravings or offset printing. The movement has also been strengthened by the emergence of many university programs and organizations nationwide, teaching the process and art of letterpress in fully equipped facilities.

Smith is now a better designer because he spent time with letterpress techniques.“My appreciation for typography and process became apparent in the work I am producing. Sure, computers have filters that can reproduce the look of letterpress, but everyone else has the same filters,” Smith said. “If I plan for a mass-produced project, such as in a book cover, I will take the time to set type on the letterpress and print a final version to scan.  Even though the end result is scanned, I know my work is authentic and will be unique.”

Today, letterpress printing has become a hobby and interest for many designers and print shops. Letterpress has a liveliness to it. It demands designers to leave the computer screen and learn the craftsmanship of typography, inks and the process it takes to develop this authentic form of artwork. It gives those that enjoy hands-on-experience the thrill of having full control over the image’s results without any limitations.

334-246-1535

824 East Glenn
Auburn, AL 36830

kevin@createtwo.com