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Letterpress Now: A DIY Guide to New & Old Printing Methods Paperback – Jan 1 2013


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Letterpress Now: A DIY Guide to New & Old Printing Methods + A 21st-Century Guide to the Letterpress Business
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Review

Praise for Letterpress Now:
 
“I wish that I had such helpful, practical guidance back when I got started. Letterpress Now is a terrific companion to help you get ink onto paper (and have fun in the process).” —Harold Kyle, Co-owner of Boxcar Press and Co-founder of Letterpress Commons
 
“A much-needed instructional tool for enthusiasts of letterpress. And in the 21st century! Who woulda thought....” —Jim Sherraden, Manager, Hatch Show Print
 
"I have to say I haven't been more excited about a book in a while...Letterpress Now: A DIY Guide to New & Old Printing Methods by Jessica C. White is really something special...I absolutely LOVE this book as it basically explains everything you wanted to know or maybe even didn't know you wanted to know about letterpress, from deciding on what type would be good for what you need, purchasing one, all the equipment (safety and otherwise) needed to run one and then a heap of awesome projects to make or be inspired by." —Poppytalk
 
“A thorough guide that would be perfect in the hands of letterpress newcomers, educators, and professionals alike...Jam-packed with information, yet remains concise and well written. It includes plenty of pictures and other visual aids as well, making all the letterpress jargon a bit more digestible...A successful guide to letterpress that is both easy to navigate and learn from.” —Printeresting

 

About the Author

Jessica White is the owner of Heroes & Criminals Press, a print shop and bindery with a focus in fine press and book arts, letterpress printing, and bookbinding. She is the co-founder of the Ladies of Letterpress, a vibrant online community of approximately 1,500 members worldwide. Jessica and the Ladies of Letterpress group have received press coverage in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN.com. Jessica teaches letterpress classes at Asheville BookWorks and Warren Wilson College, and holds an MA and MFA in Printmaking from the University of Iowa. She lives in Asheville, NC.

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Amazon.com: 18 reviews
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Letterpress meets scapbooking March 27 2013
By Paul Ritscher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Letterpress printing is a complicated process, and today, in 2013, trying to explain it to neophytes through the medium of a do-it-yourself instruction book is problematic at best. Letterpress Now, written by Jessica C. White, and published this year by Lark Books, Asheville, North Carolina, attempts to offer a basic background of the craft, plus direction toward the completion of a few simple (and a few not so simple) projects that could be produced on an assortment of printing presses that are commonly found by hobbyists today. I wish that I could say that she was successful in her effort, but the omissions and misinformation that start with the very first paragraph of text is multiplied throughout the book until I cannot imagine how a beginner could possibly benefit from it.

On the first page, which lays out a convoluted history of letterpress printing, it becomes obvious that Ms. White has not done her homework. She assumes that historians have any idea of the methods with which Johannes Gutenberg cast his type, and alludes to knowledge of the make-up of the metal he used for his types. Since these two subjects, along with the configuration of his press have been debated hotly by historians for centuries, I find that opening her book with this misinformation reflects on the lack of detail offered throughout the book. By the fourth paragraph she states that the "first major change to Gutenberg's model" happened in the 1840s, with the invention of the first platen press, completely ignoring the many developments including the iron screw, the cylinder press, and all of the innovations of machine and materials used to build presses by Adam Ramage, Lord Stanhope, George Clymer, William Rust, Robert Hoe, Richard Cope, William Nicholson, Friedrich Koenig, Daniel Treadwell, Isaac and Seth Adams, and dozens of other inventors and innovators at the beginning of the Industrial Age.

Granted, much credit can be given to Stephen Ruggles for his invention of the first self-inking, treadle-driven jobbing press, but so much more happened in the previous 400 years. Ruggles didn't actually invent a working vertical platen press until 1851, and when George P. Gordon's platen jobbing press was introduced in 1857 it soon captured the small press market, eventually morphing into the Chandler & Price manufactured machines that dominated the market until the company closed in the 1960s. Rounding out her page of history is a paragraph that takes up almost a quarter of the printed text, about rotary and web-feed presses, which, at the end of the paragraph she dismisses as not being germane to the rest of the book.

Of the four presses Ms. White offers as examples for machines that beginning printing enthusiasts might encounter only one in considered a production printing press. The first is the much-inflated in price and construction, Kelsey Excelsior tabletop platen press, a press that was sold for decades to a hobby printing market.

The second is the backbone of the job shop, the Chandler & Price platen jobber, which for some bizarre reason sells today for less than most of the tiny Kelsey presses (which should be proof to those who watch the recent resurgence of letterpress printing that preciousness is more important than production). Considering how many people get injured using this kind of machine I am amazed at how little caution is offered in this book.

The third press described is completely miss-labeled as a tabletop cylinder press, when in fact it is classified as a roller and bearing proofing press. Ms. White does not seem to understand that the round, hard rubber roller used to apply pressure to the printed sheet is not in fact a cylinder (but it is round). If this were the case then the metal rolling pins sold by some printmaking suppliers would also be categorized as cylinder presses, which they are not. Sadly, the printers who use these kinds of presses to excess discover that the ancient rubber on the roller can no longer withstand impression (especially the heavy impression that is now in vogue), and deteriorates with no source for replacement.

The last press described is the precision cylinder proofing press, which is represented by the ubiquitous Vandercook (although in the section on cylinder presses it is somehow operated interchangeably with the roller press mentioned above). Although these presses were never designed to be production presses, they have become the most sought-after press in the hobby market, selling for many thousands of dollars, eclipsing the value of production sheet-fed presses that were designed for commercial use.

The book is loaded with technical errors, like inverted quoins, metal-on-metal lock-ups, uninformed placement of gauge pins, and projects that have ridiculous positioning on the press. There are plenty of photos, but they don't always match the description of the proposed projects. The description of dampening paper must be for the process of etching; is not applicable to anything but the heaviest of papers. There are lots of close-ups of projects, which clearly show the lack of any kind of make-ready, and a definite over-abundance of irregular impression. Most of the projects seem to be printed on some very heavy cover stock, which seems to ameliorate the need for any kind of description of proper make-ready.

The text doesn't seem to be well planned, and jumps back and forth especially in the sections that deal with setting up and making ready the described presses. Sections on paper and ink seem to be out of place, and do nothing to help the flow of the instruction. The different sections seem to be loosely divided by a short Q & A with printers who I assume are friends of the author, but the questions are very repetitive, and the answers were not terribly informative. The printed works featured on these pages had no descriptors, and I assume that the pictured items were made by the featured printers, but it would have been a nice touch to give proper credits as to title, date created, finished size, and limitation if any.

The preciousness of the projects will have appeal to the Etsy crowd, and I suppose that if the reader knows nothing about letterpress printing it might whet their appetite for more information, but I really hope they might instead take advantage of reading some of the few books listed in the section on recommended reading to find out how letterpress printing should be done.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Resource with Contemporary Approach Jan. 20 2013
By HGF - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As an emerging letterpress artist I have read many technical guides, but this is the first that really addresses both the traditional and contemporary design options in letterpress. It is an outstanding reference book -- covering history and styles of presses, how to use the different styles, tools, selecting ink and paper, how to set type, maintenance, and more. Armed with the technical and how-to, the book then offers great projects with detailed instructions and high quality photographs. In the short time I've had it this book has helped me better understand and improve my work with multiple color runs, woodcuts, collagraphs and reduction prints. I highly recommend this book for any aspiring letterpress printer seeking more than a dry technical manual.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The essential letterpress how-to Jan. 17 2013
By Kseniya Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Letterpress Now is an essential guide for the modern letterpress printer, whether she's just starting out or is an old pro. The book is well-illustrated with beautiful photography, plenty of printing examples, and interviews with other printers printing today. The instructions are clear and well-written, and teach the reader not only how to recognize good printing, but also, through unique projects and thorough step-by-step instructions, how to become a good printer.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good summary of technical info Dec 27 2012
By Stellabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nice, concise info on working with various letterpress equipment. The projects are useful for conveying some further specific techniques, but I'd prefer just the tech info and more pictures of contemporary letterpress work- especially images and non-conventional use of type and type/image works of art.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Put this book alongside Polk, Cleeton and Pitkin, ITU Lessons in Printing May 4 2013
By Benjamin Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well written book with a modern approach to letterpress with interesting projects for the student. It keeps up with the times, being a good addition to the long-accepted Polk, Cleeton and Pitkin, and the ITU Lessons in Printing, among others.
--There are a load of (in my opionion) good things about this book.
--There are some (again in my opinion) not so good things about his book.
I would recommend this book to anyone in the 21st century wanting to get a good understanding of letterpress, and doing it in a fun fashion.
If you want to set several lines in 10pt. Century Schoolbook, such as "The quick red fox jumps over the lazy brown dog." or "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs" go for it, but that's not how it's done these days.
Just one thing I don't understand...I saw this the minute I opened the book and
flipped through the pages, two columns of text about 19.5 picas...pages and pages of this and I could not find a (not a one) hyphenated word or word division, at the end of a line.
JESSICA WHITE...WHAT DID YOU DO WITH ALL THOSE HYPHENS??
ON SECOND THOUGHT...HOW DID YOU DO IT???
At last a book that I can recommend to my newbie printer students.


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