A Type History Talk Featuring the Tiny Type Museum

I was in San Francisco in early June, and the Grabhorn Institute invited me to give a short talk in their gallery about type history and the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule. The institute preserves the practical history of type casting and fine-art printing by perpetuating it, fulfilling orders from letterpress printers and producing new books, while running an apprenticeship program, regular tours, and inviting speakers (like me!).


Live Podcast Taping at Ada’s on January 23: Life of a Letterpress Printer

Join me January 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 as I host an episode of his podcast The New Disruptors live at Ada's Technical Books and Café in Seattle with three letterpress printers as guests to talk about making some or all of their living in the 21st century by working in the past with techniques, equipment, and type that date as far back as the 19th century and earlier.

My panel discussion features Demian Johnston, Sarah Kulfan, and Amy Redmond, and we’ll talk about their work and practices, and how they make the past mesh with the present, especially at a time when authenticity is highly prized. The event will end with a Q&A and informal discussion. The printers and I will have some of their work on hand and available for purchase. (Note that this live event will be taped for later online audio posting.)

Admission is free and no ticket is required, but space is limited. As an incentive to venture out in the January cold, the first 20 or so arrivals will receive a free pastry courtesy of the podcast, so come early!

The New Disruptors podcast features independent artists who control how their work is made and distributed in a constantly changing creative economy. It was brought back after a hiatus through the support of patrons.

Update:  A great time was had by all!  Photo by    Jeff Carlson

Update: A great time was had by all! Photo by Jeff Carlson

Biographies:

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Sarah Kulfan is a visual designer, illustrator, and letterpress printer. She is the proprietrix of Gallo Pinto Press and Beans n’ Rice where she respectively prints limited edition prints and runs her freelance graphic design business. Sarah thrives working as an independent artist and designer where the flexibility in her schedule allows her plenty of time for opting outside. Instagram: @hellobeansnrice

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Amy Redmond is a Seattle-based visual designer and artist who has been using letterpress as a medium for self-expression since 1998. Her apprenticeship with Stern & Faye, Printers, cultivated an appreciation for traditional and experimental use of letterforms. Amy works as an independent art director and graphic designer, and prints in her studio Amada Press. Her work has appeared nationally in solo and group shows. She teaches at SVC and PLU. She is a 2018 GAP Award recipient. Instagram: @amadapress

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Demian Johnston is the Designer and Pressman at Annie's Art & Press, a letterpress shop in Ballard. At SVC, he teaches both introductory and advanced classes in the letterpress program. His design and illustration work has appeared in The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, City Arts, and Beer Advocate. He is also the founder of the art and music label Dead Accents and a veteran performing musician in Seattle’s underground music scene. Instagram: @anniesartandpress




Letterpress Books Available (Limited)

Folks, last year I printed by letterpress a 64-page book that contained six reported articles on typography, printing, and language I’d written in the previous couple of years. This was part of my design residency at the School of Visual Concepts. Every page in the book was painstakingly printed by hand. You can watch a time-lapse video of me printing.

To fund the costs of this project, I ran a Kickstarter campaign that offered a numbered edition of 100 copies to backers. It was a great reciprocity: the project I wanted to create would produce books that funded the project! That edition was bound by Jules Faye, and I’ve just finished sending out the edition of 100 to those backers.

I have a limited number of additional copies of this book that are essentially identical, and will be marked as author’s proofs in the colophon instead of being given a number. I’m happy to sign and inscribe them as you like. Find out more about buying a copy via this link. Some photos below.

In this book, you’ll learn about the history of intentionally blank pages, Google’s effort to create a font that includes all the scripts of all the world’s languages, when people starting SHOUTING IN CAPITAL LETTERS, whether the Internet will kill off curly quotes, the difference between slanted and italic type, and how a Web site planned to archive itself for 10,000 years microscopically. 

You can also read more about the process of making the book. An ebook edition with four additional articles is also available, including how letterpress came back from the dead.

You can also purchase a single chapter of the book in letterpress form: chapter 2, “CAPITAL CRIMES,” about the use of shouting with uppercase. This chapter is bound with a mylar cover and comes with a small note that explains how it was made.

London Kerning now available!

If you recall that last November, I went to London for a week and researched the heck out of 19th and 20th century printing history, visited archives and museums, and met with a bunch of people to write a book? The ebook version of London Kerning: Typographic Perambulations around a City That Remembers is now out! You can purchase a copy for $5. It’s 76 pages long and heavily illustrated with photographs I took along the way.

The print edition started shipping in early March, and almost immediately sold out, but you can order copies from a second printing that ships in early April 2018. Order the print book here.

You can read more about the book, download an excerpt, or read the introduction

And see two sample page spreads from the book below.

Chromatic Type

I've posted my first patron-exclusive item at Patreon, where you can help directly support by work by pledging as little as $1 a month (you cancel at any time). Here's the start of the post:

When we think of the past, we often imagine it in black and white. Seeing early color photos or ones that have been realistically colored often jars the way we perceive historic events. The same is true with type and printed works of the past. We think of 19th century and earlier letterpress-printed works as being largely in a single color, and that color is black, sometimes with accents in a second color. Occasionally we’ll see a fancy example of multi-colored printing, but it stands out from that period. Any full-color images typically would have been printed by lithography and added later (“tipped in”) on blank pages reserved for the purposes.

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But type could be parti-colored! (I’m sneaking in a favorite word, somewhat out of fashion: parti-colored means having or being made from two or more colors.) Printers relied on chromatic type, which was designed as sets of interlocking pieces for each letter or character. Each set could be printed separately in a unique color. When all the overlapping pieces of letters combined in a final print, you had the individual colors plus additional colors created by overprinting.

In a world of largely black-only printing with splashes of color, chromatic type could look spectacular.

Read the rest on Patreon!

New book on typography, language, and printing!

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I’ve got a new book out! It’s a collection of 10 researched and reported articles I’ve written over the last two years about the history of punctuation, the future of letterpress, and much more.

The first six chapters are part of the letterpress book I printed this year, and the book was one of the items I committed to make as part of that project. You can download an excerpt that contains a full chapter.

It’s 116 pages long and comes as a bundle of PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. Get your copy here!

Here’s what’s in the book:

  • Nothing Is Lacking: The earliest uses of marking a page as intentionally leaving something out.
  • CAPITAL CRIMES: Why we SHOUT with UPPERCASE. (Included in excerpt.)
  • The Ten-Millennium Safe: A web site plans for the far future.
  • The Quibble with Online Quotes: Will the Internet kill off curly quotes?
  • Look Askew: Slanting type is like stealing sheep.
  • Noto Bene: Google builds a massive typeface to represent all the languages of the world.
  • You Can’t Quote Me on It! Email and forums ape an ancient textual device in marking quotations.
  • A Font of Type: Walt Whitman was a printer, and this poem has deep roots in his background.
  • What a Relief: While letterpress seemed destined for the junk heap, it's making a surprising comeback.
  • A Crank Turns a Letterpress: Your author spent hundreds of hours walking a carriage on a press back and forth and thinking about what it meant.
What does this mean?! Download the excerpt to find out.

What does this mean?! Download the excerpt to find out.

Erik Spiekermann invents digital letterpress

You might know Erik Spiekermann from his prolific work in advertising, as a graphic designer, as a typographer, or as a writer. Now he's a letterpress printer. He’s put a year and €150,000 euros ($180,000) into creating a streamlined process to go from digital to letterpress. His method may sound familiar: I did something similar to print my book this summer. But Erik and his colleagues have taken this several levels further. Here’s my write-up at Medium about how he’s making a deep impression.

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A photoshoot on letterpress, a workshop on cut letters, and a Whitman print

Three pieces of printing news.

My friend Jeff Carlson came in to take pictures for his own interest on the first day I started in on printing my book by letterpress in June and then returned on one of the final days. He worked this up into a photo essay that ran at Adobe Create! It was a great pleasure to be photographed by him, as he’s a very fine artist, and neat to be in this feature. It’s really a nice look at aspects of letterpress and the studio in which I’m printing (at the School of Visual Concepts/SVC).

Photo by Jeff Carlson

Photo by Jeff Carlson

Jenny Wilkson, SVC’s letterpress program head, and I will teach a one-day workshop that explores laser cutting and engraving and letterpress on November 11. The title? “Frikkin Lasers: Letterpress Printing with Laser-Cut Media.”

Letters being cut on a Glowforge.

Letters being cut on a Glowforge.

Finally, if you’d like a piece of my printing, I’ve researched, wrote, designed, and printed a folio—a four-page booklet—with Walt Whitman’s poem “A Font of Type” on the cover and an essay inside that you can purchase! Ships immediately worldwide.