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The Art of Letterpress

Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go. — James Arthur Baldwin

If you’ve ever run your fingers over the pages of a 100 year-old book and felt the indentations of the text on the paper you’re familiar with the feel of letterpress printing. Letterpress is the antiquated technology of applying ink to metal slugs stamped with letterforms and then pressing a sheet of paper against those letterforms to create a printed page. 

There are still a few letterpress-age terms that survive today such as kerning, leading, uppercase and lowercase. While I appreciate the convenience and speed of digital typesetting, I think it’s important to appreciate the origins of a given technology. I was fortunate to have learned how to use a letterpress during my sophomore year at RISD. My appreciation for typography grew out of handling the type, composing each letter by hand and becoming familiar with the idiosyncrasies of ink, paper and press.

Nick Sambrato is a modern-day craftsman. He runs a print shop in Orlando, Florida called Mama’s Sauce. Below is a video about Nick’s 2,000 pound, cast iron Kluge letterpress. It’s a beautiful machine that produces beautifully printed pieces.

KLUGE from Northern Lights on Vimeo.

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