The oldest form of printing is still one of the nicest ways to make a good first impression and we love it! Recently, we have seen a resurgence in letterpress printing and are being asked more often than ever to help our clients create that WOW factor with their stationery. When letterpress is paired with finishing techniques such as hot foil, duplex and triplex gluing, edge painting and embossing the results can be astonishing!
Letterpress was the printing method of choice for five centuries. The process uses blocks of cut and raised, reversed letters that are inked and then pressed against the paper to produce an impression. The blocks are often cast from metal, but other types include carved wood, stone, lino or nylon blocks.
Letterpress printing is very time consuming, expensive and labour intensive. A great deal of skill and strong attention to detail is required to produce a good printed product. Back in the day when letterpress was king, several individuals would be involved in the process. Specialists would line up the type; this would entail setting the lettered blocks in to a composing stick before being transferred in to a larger type galley. The letters needed to be set line by line, in a particular order before sending to be proof read. The type block would be tied and sent to the machine room staff that operated the printing presses. The type face would be inked and set in to the machine ready for the paper to be fed through.
And not forgetting that you have to clean up after using the machines and to dry out your prints! Cleaning the equipment was absolutely crucial to ensure your next print was crisp and tidy. A good quality print established your print house.
When offset lithography took over, letterpress began to decline. Recently however, it has enjoyed a revival, particularly with wedding invitations, greeting cards, stationery and bespoke craft items. Those still involved in the letterpress process have to learn all disciplines themselves – setting the type, inking and operating the presses.
The weight of the blocks, the feel of the paper, and the smell of the ink – the very embodiment of letterpress is a craft, a hands-on art form in which you can become fully immersed.
Synergy is a Print Heritage Partner and proud supporters of the St Bride Foundation in London. The St Bride library houses a vast collection of books depicting the many practices of print and letterpress. Founded in 1891, it is dedicated to print, media, communications and design. Discover more about the foundation here: http://www.sbf.org.uk/