Once again the joy of a private press where one can print what one likes for whom one likes, without any time constraints or commercial pressure. So as it happens to be my big sister’s seventy-eighth birthday next week, what better than a large poster to recognise this event. Printed on Somerset mould -made paper on my small flat-bed press. Only two copies printed; one for Margie that will be mounted on an A3 board – and one for my samples.
With so many of us having seen the bust of Abraham Lincoln looking down onto the storming mob into the Capital Building, I was reminded of just what a wise man he was.
My print of the quote below, seems to me, to be appropriate in these strange and darker than normal days, where we have to try a little bit harder to remain ‘Happy’.
This is another Shakespeare print, with a well known quote from Twelfth Night about Music. The print is on 400gsm 100% cotton card which really brings the beauty of the ‘three dimensional’ letterpress printing which has been done with added pressure so that the decorative initial letters can be seen in the detail and relief in all their glory.
The card is mounted on a red thick backing board measuring 12.5″ x 9.5″, perfect for framing. I have only done ten of these prints, so all you music lovers, please let me know if you would like one!
As this is the first full run with my new ‘Victoria’ Press, the production of our 2020 Christmas card is a bit of a milestone. The words from HMS PINAFORE, I hope are pertinent in these rather strange times that we are now experiencing, not yet over – and for which we can do nothing about, except obey the ‘rules’. From a printing aspect, the red border was done before I had realised that the roller pressure can be finely adjusted. This would have obviated the slight ‘filling in’ of the border motif. A German friend and recipient of the card, has rung to say that the press was named ‘Victoria’, after the elder grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who married the Kaiser Frederich III.
The words of Hermann Zapft below, printed by Christopher Wakeling at his Corvus Works Press, are a good description of just what ‘light and shadow and of three dimensions’ that letterpress provides.
To me, one of the most missed activites of ‘Lockdown’ has been music making with others. As a very amateur – and late starter – violinist, the joy of playing with two orchestras has become a huge part of my life. Both the ‘Truly Terrible Orchestra’ (a perfect description) and the Ness Sinfonia, a more serious recently formed orchestra, have given me access to music that I would never have ever expected to play. Notwithstanding that I am only able to play a percentage of the correct notes, the experience of making music with others is absolutely thrilling. Thus, so that I could share his words with musical friends, I thought it apposite to print the words of Noël Coward, who obviously realised the power and importance of music in difficult times.
The joy of a Private Press is that one can print exactly what one wants and I got great satisfaction today in printing a poster for a very old friend of mine Jonathan Thomson, who aged seventy five has just (today) completed the grulling Route 500 round the North of Scotland. He started at Inverness last Monday morning and got a good send-of from the Highland Council and some well-wishers, with myself and three other fiddlers playing him on his away with two pipe marches. His trip was to raise money for Post Traumatic Stress. That he was able to complete the route in under a week is a huge achievement. As he biked back to the Flora Macdonald statue in Inverness, his starting and finishing post, he merely said ‘Job done’. It was great to have been able to present him with a poster congratulating him on his outstanding achievement.
One of the joys of running a private press is that one can print for one’s friends as and when appropriate. For the last two years we have had a lovely French tenant (Natalie) living in the small flat over my print work-shop , who is now sadly having to go back to live in France. She has had to put up with my BBC Radio Three classical music, or classical CDs that I play when I am printing. So I have had some fun composing a small ‘bon voyage’ poster with wood type, and printing it on my small Stephenson Blake proofing press.
And a second poster is one I have specially done for the Nairn Book & Arts Festival; sadly this year held on line, but still with a remarkable programme of good talks and events. I have printed a special poster for this annual event in Nairn for the last ten years. This poster was the first in which I used my ‘new’ Victoria Press and the border type cast by Gloucester Typesetting. However, after much trial and effort the wood type was too solid for this press and I had to revert to the Stephenson Blake proofing press, which under the circumstances, and seeing the size of the A3 poster, produced a remarkably satisfactory result.
Some new type has just arrived, cast by the wonderful Stan Lane of Gloucester Typesetting Services. email@example.com
I had ordered for some 24pt Monotype Borders No. 198, 321 and 322 so that I can add decently sized borders to my posters. The type came beautifully packaged and I have broken it down and used some of 198 to make up a border that will shortly be printed.
Last year I was privileged to visit Stan Lane at his unique workshop near Gloucester and have an afternoon with him, amongst his casting machines and printing presses. What a real joy it was. Below are some pictures I took.
I have ‘borrowed’ the words below from Stan’s website as they give a very good description about both casting type and what letterpress printing really is.
Real printing works in three dimensions. It means pressing a letter with ink on it into paper. Most of what we see and read these days, whether it’s a newspaper, a book, a sheet off a photocopier or words on the TV screen, is two-dimensional. It’s black and white but it lies flat on the paper. The shapes of the letters are the same, but what you see lacks the bite, the sense of impression, of type that’s been really printed. Letterpress printing remains the only way to gain the full impact of printing as it is meant to be seen, read and appreciated. Whether it is an edition of the Bible or Shakespeare, an invitation or a calling card, a poem or a piece of promotion, it has to make that impact. If it is to be understood as well as read, appreciated as well as seen, it has to be printed by letter press.
The process starts with lead type, each letter separate. This is produced by the Monotype process, of which I am probably the last commercial typesetter. It consists of a keyboard and a caster. The keyboard produces a perforated tape, which programmes the caster. One piece of type is cast at a time, and ejected into a channel to make ‘justified’, i.e., squared off, lines of individual types. The lines mount up in a long tray called a ‘galley’. When it is full, they are taken off and made up into pages by hand. That is when extra items like headings and page-numbers are added.
That is where the job ends, but for me it never ends. I go back to work I’ve already done, enjoying it when it’s come out well, sometimes wondering if I couldn’t have done it better. So when you, the customer, come back for more, you’ll find me ready to start work again, ready to repeat what’s been well done before or to create a new design for a completely new job.
The memorial is planned to be located at the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance. The Arboretum is a place which helps people to reflect and to be inspired, and where they can celebrate lives lived and a place to commemorate lives lost in service. The Submariner Memorial will commemorate the sacrifice of all those who have died whilst in the submarine service, and be a place for their families to visit.
Since 1945, 450 submariners have died while serving. And in the years before, between, and during the two World Wars, some 5,000 men made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But there is nowhere dedicated to honouring them, until now.
Further details can be obtained at: https://www.submarinermemorial.uk/about/
To raise some money for this appeal, I have printed a limited edition of fifty prints of the delightful and detailed drawing by the artist Rear Admiral John Lang, himself a submariner, showing an ‘Oberon’ and a ‘Swiftsure’ class submarine. To date, forty nine of the fifty prints have been sold, at a gain to the memorial fund of some £1000.
Below is a photograph of no fifty of the edition – still for sale at £25! – and all ready for posting off!
This print was the first job that I have done on my ‘Victoria’ press, only installed at ‘Periscope’ a month ago. The subject matter is very fitting for the name of my private press!