Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Type Lust: It's A Good Thing!

How many fonts of type are enough? 200? 500? 1000? And how many cuts, borders, and ornaments does a person need? For letterpress printers there’s always another typeface, border, or cut just around the corner. It’s truly an addiction, and pretty much incurable. But there’s a lot of fun and camaraderie along the way.

My husband Bob and I enjoyed that camaraderie this past weekend at the Great Northern Printers’ Fair in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. This three day affair offers both new and experienced printers the opportunity to actually use any of the machines housed at Printers’ Hall. If you’re new you can ask for coaching on a machine, and you’ll get a printer who’s happy to walk you through the process.

On Friday afternoon Bob and I tried out the Reliance hand press, a newly renovated addition to the Printers’ Hall collection. With our older, worn wood type, inexperience with a hand press, and some problems with the alignment of the platen and bed of the press, we had difficulty getting a good impression. Probably with a little more time we could have gotten it right. But we had a great time anyway, and learned something about printing on hand presses in the process. No point in hanging back, you’ve got to jump in and get your hands dirty!

Below are some of the projects that were going on in Printers’ Hall at the Great Northern. All kinds of presses were in action, including the giant Babcock newspaper press. Printers young and old tried their hand at using the various machines.

The Saturday swap meet was certainly a highlight of the weekend. Eager buyers checked out the rectangle of tables early, looking for treasure. It was a typographical feeding frenzy, true type lust gone wild. What was out there? Would that long sought after typeface, border, or cut be on somebody’s sale table?

After the first rush the group settled in, making the circuit over and over, buying, selling, talking. As exotic wood type fonts and old specimen books sold, interest in rusty galleys and guess-what-it-is press parts picked up. There was plenty of time to chat, exchange ideas and printing samples, and get to know the other people there.

Personally, we had a great time! We met a lot of talented young printers just starting out, and caught up with some of our long-time printing friends at the same time. United in our love for the same fascinating, inky process, time truly flew by. Will we be back next year? You’d better believe it!