October 22, 2007

A love letter to letterpress

Posted in letterpress, printing, Typesetting, typography at 8:22 pm by India


Ampersand Duck is setting a book of poetry the slow way, and writing very affectionately about it.

You want the type to be invisible in a way, to let the meaning of the words exist independently. If a word is leaping out at you because it’s thick, dull and broken, it’s unfair to the reader. But the warmth of a handprinted page is delightful, ranging from dark greys to a dense black. It’s a small challenge for the spoilt eyes of a modern reader, to whom variety in print quality means the ink heads are a bit clogged, something to be fixed. It is the finite (and rapidly dwindling) number of letters that made me think about the preciousness of words set or written by hand. Poets are, by their nature, careful with words. It is a marvellous experience to get so intimate with a piece of writing. You may think your eyes and your mind caress a word as you read it, but imagine holding that word, piece by piece, and thinking about all its layers and nuances as you ease it into place (albeit upside down and back to front!).

(Sigh.) Sounds like fun.

Photo: proof_1 by Ampersand Duck; some rights reserved.


  1. Sheila Ryan said,

    I finally got around to reading Ampersand Duck’s post all the way through. Damn. For way too long I’ve set aside my resolution to enroll in a class or workshop that will require me to set letterpress type. I used to live five (Chicago) blocks from Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts, and did I act on my resolution? No. Now I live a three-hour drive from South Wabash Avenue. But will I let that stand in my way? Mmmm . . . I’ll work on it.

    (Ah. I’m only a two-hour drive from Madison, Wisconsin. Letterpress lives there, too.)

  2. Anne-Marie said,

    I think you’d like this video:


  3. India Amos said,

    Thanks, Anne-Marie! I posted that one about a year ago, actually: A Letterpress Talkie.

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