letterpress is something I have wanted to learn. the San Francisco Center for the Book is just down the street from my office. inside are are bunch of presses. a whole lot of type. surrounded by a big workspace.
the short take away is this. when you look at an old book printed a hundred years ago it meant that somebody loaded type from a case onto a plate that got printed for a while and then it was recycled into another page. there is perfection in every page. I rarely see typos in old books. it’s rare. and the way the lines of type line up every time is perfect. justification is easy now. just select the text then click an icon. but page after page of pushing lead in between characters to make a perfect right line is wild to think about.
the presses in the SFCB were made before 1950. and soon after the company that made them stopped making this kind of press. everyone who needed one had one. and other kinds of presses were taking over. as time went on these heavy tools would cease to make money so they would get sold for scrap or find a home with an artist.
maybe a laser printer or a color inkjet is more efficient. but there is a look that neither will ever be able to attain. ever.
in three hours I got an overview of the three kinds of presses at SFCB. toured the cases of type. learned a bunch of printer’s terms. and put my hands on lead. fed paper into a press. and rolled it through to squish ink.
and I made a rookie mistake. type goes backwards. !sdrawkcab. otherwise it prints sdrawkcab on the paper. maybe the thing I made is funnier. dunno.