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Introduction to Letterpress Printing

Lesson 2 of 10

A Very Brief History Of Letterpress

Cheryl Itamura

Introduction to Letterpress Printing

Cheryl Itamura

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Lesson Info

2. A Very Brief History Of Letterpress

Lesson Info

A Very Brief History Of Letterpress

letter Press printing has been around for a long time, ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in the early 14 hundreds. So I guess you could say that letter press printing was the cutting edge technology of the 15th century, and not much has changed since then. We still use metal movable type and for some things wouldn't type for practical purposes. But I'll get into that a little bit later when we actually start to print. The press is behind me are a variety of type of printing presses that are used for letter press. Some people actually refer to them as letter press presses, but that's actually incorrect. There's no such thing as a letter press printing press. What they are is printing presses that air used for letter press printing. Variety of types include a vander cook cylinder press that was made in the 19 forties up through 1972 when the Vander Cook Cylinder company stopped manufacturing them. So if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a vander cook cylinder pre...

ss, consider yourself really lucky, and you'll want to know all the ins and outs on how to maintain that. Since nobody's making the parts anymore. There's also other types of presses that are used for letter press printing, including a clamshell press also known as a jobbing press, also known as a Platen press. There's a lot of different names for the types of presses that are used for letter press printing, but they all essentially work the same way. One key element to let a press printing is that everything that you put on them to print needs to be 10.918 inches high. We'll talk about a little bit about that a little later, too. There was one printing press in this room that will show you when we take a tour around the studio, and that one is made in 1911. And it's the same type of printing press that was used to print newspapers around the Civil War era. But this particular presses made in 1911 so letter press printing wasn't actually considered an art form. Originally, it was a means of communication. It was used for printing newspapers, magazines and other periodic ALS to communicate information to people on college campuses across the country. There's usually a lot of press studio hidden there somewhere on campus, you won't find it near the painting studio, the drawing studio, the sculpture studio or anywhere near the fine art swing on most campuses where you will find it is somewhere between auto shop and wood shop in the industrial arts complex. But now, since letter press printing is no longer has the burden of communication on it, it's become free to become an art form and is now used by graphic artists, artists and hobbyists alike to express creative thought. There's a poster on the wall in this studio that kind of sums up where letter press printing falls among all the other art forms. It's an art form that supports all other art forms. This is a printing office, crossroads of civilization. Refuge off all the arts against the ravages of time. Armory of Fearless Truth against whispering rumor, Incessant trumpet of trade. From this place, words may fly abroad not to perishes waves of sound but fixed in time, not corrupted by the hurrying hand but verified in proof friends, you stand on sacred ground. This is a printing office

Class Description

The letterpress style of printing dates back to the 15th century and is experiencing a resurgence in popularity today. The stunning tactile and visual imprint of letterpress is used for business cards, invitations, poster prints, and more. In Introduction to Letterpress Printing, you’ll learn all about the machines and methods behind this celebrated practice.

The San Francisco Center for the Book (SFBC) is a non-profit outpost dedicated to preserving and teaching all aspects of book making. In this class, SFBC instructor Cheryl Itamura will walk you through the letterpress process and introduce you to the equipment used to create the most popular printed looks.

You’ll learn about:

  • Printing with the Vandercook Cylinder (Proof) Press
  • Setting wood type, lockup, inking, and printing with a proof press
  • Printing with the Tabletop Platen Jobbing (Clamshell) Press
  • Working with metal type, lockup, ink
  • Printing with the clamshell press

Cheryl will talk about gaining access to printing studios in your own community and offer tips on building your own collection of equipment and how to use and maintain it.

Letterpress printing produces timeless, artisan paper products. Learn how you can take full advantage of the creative possibilities of this historic form of printing from Cheryl Itamura in Introduction to Letterpress Printing.


Erica Engdahl

This is a super inspiring course that really made me want to try letterpress printing! Itamura is a great instructor who speaks clearly and shows and explains every piece of equipment and that's really good if you, like me, don't know very much about letterpress printing before hitting play on this course. Well worth the money!

Henry Aquino

Great Intro class, a little pricey for how short it was, but still worth it. I don't see anywhere to download the resource list mentioned in the movie "A World of Resources".

Chris Guppy

It's a great intro, but like Henry, I don't see the resource list for download that she mentions.