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The invention of letterpress printing revolutionized the western world by bringing the printed word to the masses. It remained a relevant and important printing method for almost 500 years. In letterpress, individual pieces of metal and wood “type” (The “letters” of letterpress!) are assembled into a “form” and loaded into a machine that rolls ink over the surface. Then a sheet of paper is loaded into the machine and printed with the inked type. Each color requires a separate run through the press.
There are varying ways to add imagery on a letterpress. I predominantly use linoleum cuts and wood engravings. In both methods, I carve out the negative space on the surface of a block, then load it into the press and print it. There are some differences between the two methods I use though. The tools are differently shaped, and the carving surfaces are different materials. Wood engraving can achieve a much finer line to create a more detailed image. Larger prints, like my posters, are all linoleum cuts.
For all you letterpress nerds- I run a 1958 Windmill and a Vandercook 4 from the 40’s. I have “a few” other presses around too (read: too many). All my work is printed from handset type- I have about 150 cases. It’s a motley collection, mostly from the 40’s and 50’s.