I'm printing invitations to our home show today. I've got a 1909 Chandler and Price letterpress that I am the current caretaker for, and I feel so privileged to have it in my home. I mostly carve blocks for it and do note cards, but occasionally I have an invitation I'd like to print, and (thanks to a letterpress fairy godmother here in town who's traded me type for paintings), I have type I can set to create my own postcard. It's a satisfying process to do that from start to finish.
Today several people have dropped by to pick up calendars or prints and have gotten to see the press in action. I realize this isn't something most people are able to see in their everyday lives, and one friend too far away to drop by requested a video. So here it is. It's the first time I've used this feature on my small digital camera, so the sound isn't great, but you can see the beauty of the press in orbit.
Here's a scan of the invitation I'm printing. It's fun to try different type and ornaments that Cheryl has given me.
And here's what the first 100 or so looked like, before I caught the mistake.
At least I'm in good company. I learned in my Meeman Center class on Shakespeare with Mike Leslie earlier this fall that when they were printing Shakespeare's First Folio editions, someone would stand by the press and proofread as it was running. If he found a mistake, he'd yell, "Stop the presses!", and they'd fix it, but they wouldn't waste the pages they had already printed. So there are several different versions of the First Folio floating around with various typographical errors.
In my case, the places for the "a" and the "r" letters in a California case are right next to each other, and obviously I just grabbed the wrong one.
Here's how the letters are laid out in print shops. I still have to use a diagram to go very quickly, but I'm learning. It's a fun trade to learn. I feel connected with centuries' worth of important history as I print with moveable type. My whole church (Presbyterian) sprang out of the printing press and the new ability it offered to spread both vernacular copies of the Bible and theological tracts.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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