A letter press is a printing press that uses movable type to create prints. It is a mechanical device that revolutionized the way printed materials were produced, making mass printing possible and affordable for the first time. In this article, we will explore the history of letter presses, their construction, and how they are used today. #letterpress
What is a letter press?
The history of letter presses can be traced back to the 15th century when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. However, it was not until the 19th century that the letter press, as we know it today, was developed. In 1813, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer invented the steam-powered press, which could print up to 1,100 sheets per hour. This press was a significant improvement over the hand-operated presses that could only print about 250 sheets per hour.
Letter presses became increasingly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with many companies producing them for commercial use. The most famous of these companies was the American company, Chandler & Price, which produced letter presses from the 1880s until the 1960s. Chandler & Price presses were known for their quality construction and durability, and they are still sought after by letterpress enthusiasts today.
Letter presses are constructed using a number of different materials, including cast iron, steel, and wood. The press consists of several key parts, including the bed, the platen, and the rollers. The bed is a flat surface that holds the type in place, while the platen is a movable plate that presses the paper onto the type. The rollers are used to apply ink to the type.
To use a letter press, the operator first selects the type they want to use and sets it in place on the bed. They then apply ink to the type using the rollers and place a sheet of paper on the bed. The platen is then lowered onto the paper, pressing it onto the type and leaving an impression. This process is repeated for each sheet of paper.
Today, letter presses are primarily used by artists and designers who appreciate the unique quality of letterpress printing. The process produces a deep, textured impression that cannot be replicated by digital printing methods. Letter presses are often used to create wedding invitations, business cards, and other high-end printed materials.
At the print shop I work at, they still have an old letter press ATF Little Giant (The ATF Little Giant is a letterpress machine that was first produced by the American Type Founders company (ATF) in the early 1900s.) and it is set up to do perforations. It has the saw letter press on it. They still do have the letters and words. The Little Giant is a platen press, which means that it uses a flat surface (the platen) to press the paper against the inked type or image on the printing surface. This press on the manufacture plate says it was made in England.
In conclusion, letter presses are a fascinating piece of technology that have had a significant impact on the printing industry. They have a rich history, and their construction and use are still appreciated by artists and designers today. While digital printing methods have largely replaced letter presses in commercial settings, the unique quality of letterpress printing ensures that it will continue to be used for many years to come.
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