Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

Playing with type

Yesterday Jeremy, Anna, Sarah and I went to Feilding to spend an afternoon at Homeprint. Almost all of John and Allison’s house is given over to printing presses, trays of lead and wood type, binding tools, and much more besides — it’s a dream. I laid out a short sampler in different sizes of Goudy lead type, and a rather old wooden block ornament, and printed off a few copies on the Pearl handfed clamshell press (the Improved Pearl). Beautiful.

John has a philosophy towards the materials of his studio that I wholly approve of. He realised that he had so much stuff that he would be dead before he could personally use all of it — and so he unstintingly allows others to use anything in their own projects.

It is easy to see why the printing press was an agent of massive change. Even though the process of laying out and setting type is slow (much slower than writing, even using medieval instruments), that is obviously offset completely by the capacity to make numerous copies. So while these presses may seem antiquated in this age of digital everything, I come at it from the perspective of having written a (non-calligraphic) copy of a twelfth century manuscript of Boethius’s De institutione musica. This took a good chunk of time, and of course I made precisely the scribal errors that I was studying!

As always happens when I am faced with a mechanical device, I marvel at the ingenuity that went into devising it, the skill required in its crafting, and the implicit goal that it is meant to last. Then there is the frequent ornamentation, the understanding that tools can be beautiful. It reminds me of a mechanical watch that was shown on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, the insides of which were marvellously decorated, though they would never be seen in the usual course of events.

Posted by jamie on October 13, 2002 10:23+13:00

Comments

Hear Hear! Having been on said expedition to Feilding, I recommend to anyone who gets the chance that they have a go at printing. Having made modest (both in size and style) visiting cards for myself, I'm keen to let loose and try something a little more risque next time. Long live revisiting 'obsolete' technology and having fun with it!

Posted by: Jeremy Macey on October 15, 2002 14:53+13:00