Letterpress City Tour: Colorado Springs

For this edition of our City Series, from the peaks and presses and the outdoors to the Olympians, Ladyfingers Letterpress owners celebrate their energetic community of Colorado Springs.  Arley-Rose and Morgan call The Springs home amidst the bluffs and beauty.  They give us some insight into reaching the summit both in the mountains, and in the artistic and progressive culture around them.  Come along as they share their favorite places to chill out, drink down, and read up.

COMING HOME We’ve officially been here since July of 2014, but my wife and co-Ladyfinger Morgan Calderini is from here, so she’s cumulatively been exposed to this Rocky Mountain air for longer than I have. In 2013, a wildfire demolished her family home while we were living in Rhode Island, so we moved our business – presses and all – out here a year later to be closer to her family as they rebuilt their lives.

(All photography courtesy of Ladyfingers Letterpress unless otherwise noted.)

Daily Life As proud parents of a pretty darn adorable year and a half year old, we see the daycare a lot! Because let’s be real, we both work and the kid isn’t gonna change his own diapers. Yet.

Now that you know that we’re parents to a tiny human, you probably won’t be surprised that we don’t get out much during the rest of the week. Aside from the basic staples – the grocery store, Fedex, the liquor store, you know, JUST THE ESSENTIALS – we try to squeeze in a hike on our time off. Luckily, natural beauty surrounds Colorado Springs, so a gorgeous and secluded nature hike is only like 5 minutes away.

Growing City for Sharing the Printing Love It’s a really easy place to live! I know that’s not really a letterpress-related answer, but as a general rule, being in a city where it’s easy to live and raise a family makes it easier to run a business, thus making us happier and more productive people overall.

It was not so easy – on the other hand – to find a studio at first. We found ourselves constantly competing with the Medical Marijuana (MMJ) industry to find affordable light industrial space. Who knew that stoners and letterpress printers had so much in common?

We finally found a studio that had a nice retail presence, so we opened up a little store in the front of our letterpress shop. People were able to come in to buy a card or a gift and see the presses at work in the background. Many people didn’t know what they were (a lot of people assumed they were just heavy props to make our space look cool or something?), but it also made people more curious about printmaking so we started to offer classes and workshops. Having a retail storefront has been a great way to share our passion for letterpress with the community and educate people about this craft we love so dearly.

Melding of Minds and Resources Being involved with our local community is a critical part of Ladyfingers Letterpress’ vision. We see the hustle and experimentation of our fellow artists as something we try to engage with and support as often as possible. From selling local artisans’ work in our store (and even collaborating with them on some new products) to inviting visiting artists to teach classes and workshops, we are always searching for ways that we can uplift the craft of the people working alongside us in as many ways as possible.

One collaboration sticks out in my mind and that is The Work Continues Project. After the 2016 election, Aaron Cohick, who runs The Press at Colorado College, set up some wood type on one of his presses with the words, “THE WORK CONTINUES. STAY…” Students who visited the press throughout the day took turns finishing the sentence and the result was a suite of six posters that read, “STAY KIND/TRUE/IN LOVE/FIERCE/WOKE/STRONG.”

A lot of people expressed interest in buying these posters, so we offered to handle the logistics of sending them out into the world by managing all the inventory and shipping, and tracking each sale so that 100% of the proceeds would benefit The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, Inside/Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs, and the Black Educators Network in El Paso County, CO.

Pop Goes The Color Ladyfingers Letterpress prints exclusively from polymer plates, which allows us to print our hand-lettered weirdo illustrations in neon inks on thick, cotton paper. Morgan handles all the expert letterpress printing and I do all the illustrations, and together we have a style that is distinctly Ladyfingers.

Fav People & Mutual Love We love our paper rep, Julian from Spicers Paper! He not only helps us find the perfect paper, but he also occasionally brings us lunch and in return we shower him with our undying affection and invite him to our kid’s birthday parties.

We also love our foil stamping buddy, JS Letterpress. Charles is always in a good mood, but that could be because he probably just finished a session of aerial yoga which he is also super good at.

Victorian Homes And Small Town Feel We love the Old North End, but we’re biased because we live there.

(photography courtesy of oldnorthend.org)

Morgan grew up in the north part of town in Black Forest, but when we moved back here after the fire we knew we wanted to be downtown. The streets are lined by huge old trees, well-loved arts and crafts bungalows and Victorian-style homes. Our neighbors care about historic preservation and environmental conservation, and also throw a hell of a neighborhood-wide yard sale every June. Also it’s nice to be able to walk to work!

Rubbing Shoulders With a Cast of Thousands Colorado Springs has a reputation for having a high concentration of military personnel and Christian Evangelicals, which is not exactly the cross section that would scream “WELCOME QUEER ARTSY LETTERPRESS PRINTERS,” so I guess what I’m trying to say is it makes craigslist transactions really exciting.

(photography courtesy of Colorado Co-op)

What Colorado Springs doesn’t have a reputation for (yet) – and what we were most surprised to discover – is its incredible community of poets, writers, artists and community organizers. There are two colleges nearby (Colorado College and The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) that nourish our community with events and culture and supply our workforce with their best and most innovative graduates.

In 2017, more millennials moved to Colorado Springs than any other city in the U.S., so we are seeing an influx of bright-eyed young-uns ready to work hard and live the dream. Well, some of them work hard. The rest just want to live the dream. Just kidding! Hi Millennials! We love you! Sorry, we’re not accepting any interns at this time! 🙂

You wanna know who else lives here? Olympians. Yes, you heard me. U.S. Olympians. Like, the real-deal gold and silver and bronze medal winners who you watch on TV every 4 years accomplishing super-human feats.

(photography courtesy of teamusa.org)

People don’t just jog here, they do push-up handstands while sprinting up a mountain. The Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center attracts athletes who are looking to train at high altitude, and a lot of them put down roots here and become part of the community. Then you get to know them and discover they are actually really insanely nice people, and you’re like sitting there feeling proud of yourself that you did 2 miles on the treadmill without stopping.

Chance Encounter Seals The Deal We actually moved here because of a random interaction in a locally-owned coffee shop. We had been considering moving to Denver and were driving around both cities to scope them out and to try to get a feel of what neighborhoods we’d like to live in. We stumbled into a coffee shop and the woman behind the counter gives Morgan a curious look and pegs her for a newcomer.  Morgan squints her eyes suspiciously, but is also simultaneously kind of impressed, so she replies that we’re considering moving to the neighborhood and we’re letterpress printers. The woman, who was one of the owners of the coffee shop and is now a close friend of ours, demands that we become part of her “30-Something Happy Hour, where we all get together on Friday evenings for dinner and are home and in sweatpants by 9pm.” So that’s how we decided where to live because of a barista who seduced our friendship with a sentence that included dinner plans and sweatpants.

(photography courtesy of Switchback Coffee Roasters.)

The coffee shop is now called Switchback Coffee Roasters, and although our happy hour pal is no longer there, we still love their coffee and egg sandwiches.

Not To Be Missed We love supporting our fellow downtown local businesses! From outdoor gear (Mountain Chalet) to kitchen supplies (Sparrow Hawk Cookware) to books (Hooked on Books) to toy stores (Poor Richard’s – which also sells books and makes pizza and has other rad stuff!) to just excellently tasteful apparel and jewelry (Colorado Co-Op) we are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many other rad and locally-owned small businesses!

(top photography courtesy of Hooked on Books; bottom photography courtesy of Colorado.com.)

Colorado Springs is also all about brewing! And it’s not just beer! There is a huge craft coffee scene here so don’t you dare get caught with a chain coffee cup in your hand.

(photography couresy of csindy.com.)

Dynamic Culture With High Peaks View Colorado Springs is FULLLLLL of attractions. They may not all be cultural (but in that category we give the Fine Arts Center a million thumbs up) but there are still a ton of amazing things to see and do around here. 

(photography courtesy of csfineartscenter.org.)

We even made a print to commemorate the sights!

(photography courtesy of we-know-colorado.com.)

Some highlights include: Pikes Peak (it’s America’s Mountain, y’all!), Seven Falls (which I recently learned is manmade, but whatever it’s still hella beautiful), Garden of the Gods (which fortunately for us has nothing to do with church), and the Olympic Training Center (go Team USA!).

(photography courtesy of gardenofgods.com.)

Location, Location, Location When we moved into our space nearly 2 years ago, our neighbors on one side were meth dealers who illegally lived in their unit (they sold t-shirts and bongs, obviously), and on the other side was a row of empty retail spaces that no one wanted because there was no foot traffic on our block.

Fast forward just a little bit and Ladyfingers signs a lease, nabs a grant from the Downtown Partnership to renovate not only our own facade but also all the retail spaces in our building (which are now occupied by rad and legitimate businesses), and now we get compliments all the time from customers about our “great location!”

I’m not saying we’re responsible for revitalizing our block, but we definitely got in at just the right time.

Fun + Downtime Spots Every special occasion/window of time that we don’t have anything planned we spend it at Sun/Water Spa.

(photography courtesy of city-data.com.)

They have these incredible cedar-walled mineral spas that have the most grandiose view of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. They also have yoga and wellness classes and offer massages and spa treatments if you’re fancy like that.

(photography courtesy of Atlas Obscura.)

If you’re in that part of town, you definitely should also stop by the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade. They have vintage games and attractions – some even still costing a penny or so – that still work and are in amazing condition. A great place to get some cotton candy and a corn dog and play some old-fashioned skeeball. It’s like the Jersey Shore without the Jersey. Or the shore.

Last Thing to Say  Come for the weed, stay for the bleed!  (Sorry, I can’t help but make bad printmaker jokes!)

Letterpress Studios in Central Colorado

Further Other Book Works – Colorado Springs, CO
JS Letterpress – Colorado Springs, CO
House Forteen – Denver, CO
Cedar Park Printing – Lakewood, CO
Genghis Kern – Denver, CO
Method & Madness – Arvada, CO
Smokeproof Press – Boulder, CO
SWEET letterpress – Boulder, CO

Other Must-See Stops

Manitou Springs Penny Arcade – Fall in love with vintage and old-fashioned arcade games. Give the flippers a whirl with the Arcade’s many pinball machines!
Nations Museum of World War II Aviation – A magnificent and tucked-away gem in Colorado Springs, the Museum features B-52 bombers to an amazing collection of aircraft memorabilia.
Cheyenne Mountain Bunker – The infamous bunker that housed NORAD (Northern American Aerospace Defense Command) in the late 1960s. While the bunker isn’t open to the public, you can drive by it while on the road on Route 115 off of I-25. Bonus fact: the bunker was used for exterior shots in the movies Independence Day, Stargate SG-1, and Wargames.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – A mountain-nestled zoo that stars a mountaineer sky ride and open-space enclosures/exhibits.
Glen Eyrie Castle – Built by Colorado Springs founder, General William Jackson Palmer, this gorgeous English Tudor style castle is a beauty in the mountains.
Western Museum of Mining and Industry – Take a trip back in time to explore 19th and early 20th-century pioneer and mining life in Colorado.
The Stanley Hotel – A 2-1/2 hour day-trip drive north from Colorado Springs, Estes Park, CO is home to the iconic exterior location for the hotel featured in suspense/horror classic The Shining.

We hope you enjoyed our latest installment of the letterpress city series guide! Interested in shining a spotlight on your hometown? Contact us today! And if you are planning a letterpress-centric trip, be sure to check out the super cool print trip map on Letterpress Commons to find a printer near you!

The Inquisitive Printer: More Things That Caught Our Eye

Our focus lately has gone from New York to New Mexico and over the water.  We hope you enjoy what has captured our attention this week.

From Carrie: A windmill printer at Boxcar Press.
On the Letterpress Digest podcast: As a giant letterpress and book nerd, I was so thrilled to hear about a new product devoted to my beloved particular form of the Black Arts. The host, Jordan, interviews printers, suppliers, and others active in the field.  It has been a treat to hear my letterpress heroes talk about their adventures and get to know others I may have missed out on otherwise.  The interviews have been engaging and educational and had me laughing at things only other print nerds would find funny.  Even though only a dozen episodes have aired, I can’t wait to hear who will be next.  This is exactly what my printer’s heart was longing for – hearing letterpress things while making letterpress things.

From Cathy: On Facebook, there is a great resource of printing brains and experience over at The Heidelberg Letterpress Page so I have been encouraging all to join this group.

Next, I am a big fan of knowing how things are made, so this story in the New York Times combines some pretty nifty photography with a good story on one of America’s last pencil factories.  It raises my respect for this basic tool.

tom leech(photography courtesy of savingplaces.org)

So excited to see an article about the Print Shop and Bindery at New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors, with an interview with printer, Tom Leech.  Tom and I have corresponded over the years so am loving this peek into the working shop / museum.

From Rebecca:  Coming in May 2018, the inspiring folks over at the Corning Museum of Glass (just a day-trip drive from our location here in Syracuse) will be launching the GlassBarge ship.

barge(photography courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass)

This barge ship will sail through the New York Waterways (visiting & stopping from ports in Brooklyn to Buffalo) this spring while giving free glassblowing demonstrations to the public in each port city on its itinerary. A rare and wonderful event that we’ll be checking out when it comes to town!

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about the things that caught our eye here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Inquisitive Printers Want to Know – Things that Caught Our Eye

Those of us here at Boxcar Press are a searching, probing, questioning bunch of folks.  We are drawn to many things creative, fascinating and colorful.  Letterpress definitely fits those criteria, so we have to believe all of you out there are like-minded as us.  It should be no surprise we discover through reading and listening and yes, emails from you, a goodly number of interesting stories that are parts imaginative, informative, and just plain neat.  We are sharing folks too.  Every other week, we endeavor to pass on to you a few bits of knowledge that have caught our eye and think you might ooh and ahh over as well.  So, here goes…

From Cathy:  A video on a German papermaker that is hypnotic and soothing as you watch him at his craft.  

From Norway, the Future Library – An incredible story of a forest that was planted in 2014 and in one hundred years will be harvested to make paper to print 100 books written in that time period. The part I particularly like is that they are also preserving a printing press and instructions to operate it, in the event that books may not even be printed on paper in 100 years.  I think a letterpress machine is perfect for this and have pondered which press might be fitting. The whole undertaking of the Future Library fascinates on many levels.

haunted press in Toronto, Canada
(photo courtesy of www.printcan.com)

And for fun, an amusing story about an alleged haunted Washington Model printing press in Toronto Canada. in the home of a newspaper editor.  Perhaps he has a deadline to meet.

From Rebecca:  Graphene is a technological marvel to watch out for as it is on the fast-track to revolutionize the medical, construction & safety, and art realms. This material has been documented as being 200 times stronger than steel, yet lighter than paper. Here’s a fascinating “how it’s made” video to pique the mind and jump-start new ways of utilizing this material. Maybe one day the mighty graphene will affect the way printers of all disciplines use their machines in new creative ways?

Next, we’ve been following letterpress printer Tristan Rodman for quite a while on his experiments with letterpress printing and creating playable paper records. Tristan has been keeping a log of his experiments and perhaps with a few more tweaks, letterpress can pave a way for a new way of sharing and collecting musical masterpieces.

Bonus: Although a few years old, listening to the first 3-d printed record album still gives us goosebumps as the needle hits the plastic. We find it a fine choice to honor Nirvana with this intriguing new way to braid new 3-d printing technologies with old school craftsmanship.

We hope you explore some of our links and perhaps learn a little bit more about what interests us here at Boxcar Press.  Email us at info@boxcarpress.com the things that delight you also!

Top 14 Valentine’s Day Letterpress Gift Guide-2018

Specially chosen with care, we tally up 14 beautiful, heartfelt, and humorous 2018 Valentine’s Day letterpress gifts, including cards, prints, and letterpress classes (date night, anyone?).  Let us know what you are getting your printing paramour this year in the comments below!

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

1. Tinder Love card by Steel Petal Press  |  2. Trap Valentines card by Bench Pressed |  3. Letterpress Valentine’s Day Card Making workshop (February 13th, 2018 – Pittsford, NY)  |  4. Personalized letterpress notecards by Inclosed Letterpress Co.  | 5. You & Me Letterpress Love Greeting Card by Paisley Dog Press

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

6. Personalized large primary notepads by Haute Papier   |  7. Main Squeeze letterpress card by Inclosed Letterpress Co. | 8. James Joyce Letterpress Quotation Valentine Card by LarryOrlandoDesign  |  9.  Tear & Share letterpress valentines perforated cards by Igloo Letterpress |  10.  Introduction to Letterpress class by Igloo Letterpress (date night anyone?)

Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2018 - featuring classes, cards, and beautiful letterpress prints.

11. e.e. cummings lettterpress print by Thimblepress  |  12. Cheers to Us – Valentine Love Lobsters letterpress card by darlinpress  | 13. Letterpress Valentines Cards class (February 11th, 2018 – Fort Lauderdale, FL)  |  14. Anywhere With You letterpress card by Permanent Collection

Gift Certificate – One Size Fits All 

Not sure how to delight your favorite letterpress printer?  Indecisive about rubber base or oil base as their preferred ink?  We have the stuff for the letterpress obsessed. Treat your friend or family printer to a Boxcar Press gift certificate.  It can be used for custom platemaking services or for supply items.

Boxcar Press gift certificates are great for every letterpress printer on your holiday list!

It’s as simple as calling or emailing and asking to be connected to the Boxcar Press team for a gift certificate.  We’ll set up an account in your recipient’s name with the dollar amount you provide.  We can email you a gift certificate to print out for the favored person.

Boxcar Press can accept credit card payment or invoice you for a PayPal transaction, whichever is the most convenient for you.

Take heart too if you need a few last minute gift ideas – visit our letterpress swag for a Boxcar t-shirt or apron for your Vandy lover or windmill enthusiast.  We have your back for a letterpress gift.

Gift certificates will be emailed within one business day.  Contact us for expedited orders.  Perfect for last minute holiday gifts!

2017 Letterpress Holiday Gift Guide

We are counting down the Top 17 Gift Picks for the letterpress lover in your life in our 2017 Letterpress Holiday Gift Guide. From vintage printed goodies, to essential pressroom must-haves, our list is sure to please the printer in your life! Let us know what’s on your wish list in the comments section below.

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

1. Letterpress Printing, A Manual for Modern Fine Press Printers book, by Paul Maravelas from Boxcar Press   |  2.  Babies of Letterpress onesie  from Ladies of Letterpress | 3. Letterpress Trail Set  from Firecracker Press | 4. Set of wood type (box of ampersand dots) from Moore Wood Type  | 5. Holiday Kitty Ornaments from Chandler O’Leary / Anagram Press   | 6. “Upper and Lower Case” fine art print of printshop from Fine Art America  

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

7. Heidelberg decal from Heidelberg University  |   8. Henry Gage Pins from Boxcar Press  | 9. Original Heidelberg Windmill History & Handbook by Jim Daggs / Ackley Publishing  |  10.  PANTONE Note pad from Pantone   |  11.  Big Caslon Ampersand Cufflinks by Ampersand & Co.

The 2017 Boxcar Press letterpress gift guide has gift ideas for the type-loving letterpress printer in your life - including letterpress t-shirts and more.

12. Keys&Quoins&Furniture&Registration Helvetica T-Shirt by Swell Press Paper   |   13. Heidelberg Safety First – Enamel Pin by Skylab Letterpress  |   14. Squintani Model letterpress poster by Briarpress  |   15.  Happy Holidays letterpress printed ornament card pack from JillyJackDesigns  |   16. Boxcar Press printing apron from Boxcar Press  |   17. 1957 Original Heidelberg T-Shirt from TEEPUBLIC

The Paper Giveaway To Teachers at Boxcar Has Encore

Just when we thought the last scrap of paper was carted off last week, Boxcar Press was able to secure an unexpected bonus of more paper for local area art classrooms.

Free paper and printing supplies lured Central New York art teachers to Boxcar Press’ warehouse for our annual Art Paper Giveaway on October 25th.  However, Paper Giveaway Part 2 is coming up this Friday and Saturday,  November 3-4, 2017, during our print shop Open Studio event.

Paper Giveaway encore event at upcoming Open Studio for Smock paper and Boxcar Press in November 2017.

A frenzy is not too strong of a word to describe the scene where excited teachers came, saw, and carted away boxes and armloads of paper.  The colorful papers, foil rolls, envelopes, and plastic transparencies will find their way into journals, collages, mixed media art, and more in the coming months.  One teacher was tasked with finding art supplies for her whole district, a daunting task as art budgets are trimmed every year.  

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Throughout the year, Boxcar Press employees earmark papers, print projects, and supplies for our giveaway.  We like the idea of passing on our extras to kids and creative art teachers to design new artistry. It was a nice surprise this week to get notice of more paper arriving to our dock so we could turn around and place more supplies in the hands and on the art shelves of teachers.

Local area art teachers benefit from annual Boxcar Press Paper Giveaway. Spurs creativity in the classroom with donated paper, envelopes, and much more.

Art teachers who are interested in this latest stock of papers can come to Boxcar Press during our Open Studio event at the Delavan Building during the hours of the event – Friday, November 3rd from 5pm – 8pm and Saturday, November 4th from 10am – 4pm.  Please come to our front offices at Suite 135 through the 509 entrance and tell us you are an art teacher there for the giveaway.   Picking up paper is on a first come, first served basis and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.

School Art Budgets Get a Boost from Boxcar Press’ Annual Paper Giveaway for Teachers.

Pulaski Academy Art Department teacher Stacey Walton reached out with photos and praise for our Boxcar Press paper giveaway for art teachers.  “If not for your generosity my budget would not allow for my students to have so many more opportunities and variation in art supplies as they do now,” writes Stacey.

The Pulaski, New York art instructor is referring to our annual giveaway of printing papers and more to art teachers at local schools.  Boxcar Press gathers a wide variety of items no longer needed for printing projects and it’s not just limited to papers.  It varies from year to year but can include papers of all types, patterns, and sizes, envelopes, surplus cards, packaging, transparencies and colored foils.

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway

Stacey included photos of just a few examples of how creative her classroom students were.  Some of the paper is perfect for oil pastel and acrylic painting. They use the patterned papers in their art journals a lot. They also use them for after school craft projects, including Fall signs, wreaths, and ornaments (by curling the paper and putting it inside glass ornaments – they come out beautifully!)  The solid colored papers (especially black) are great for mounting backs.  

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway

Some of the items offered are not papers or materials but plastic boxes formerly used for card sets and the cards themselves.  The students use the boxes of plastic covers as palettes for painting, printmaking, etc.  They are perfect because students can close them up and save them from day to day rather than washing the paint off every class.  Stacey writes, “This is a huge saver on paint for us, and super convenient for the students as they do not have to re-mix colors from class to class.”

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway -art journals

2017 OctoberTeacher Giveaway - art

“I have had students paint little boxes to use as stands for ceramics and sculptures for displays.  We used the foil rolls we got last year as decorations for our school dances. I also use the “Thank You” cards any time an organization or business donates something to our program.  Our secretaries use the Thank You cards as well (I found a set with our school colors, so they were perfect).  We even give them to students who need thank you’s to send out when they get things like awards and scholarships.”

Thank you Stacey for the feedback and artwork.  We enjoy providing what we can to enrich school art programs and are astounded by the creativity and breadth of how the supplies are used. We encourage other art teachers to let us know in photos and words how you have used our give-away items.

This year’s annual paper giveaway for teachers is Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 from 2:30-4:30 PM and questions can be directed to Boxcar Press at 315-473-0930.

The Art of Printing: Prose, Song, and Poetry to Entertain Those in the Trade

Who doesn’t love a rousing, good ditty, or a clever, snappy poem with a wicked twist of words?  And what better than an ode about your favorite topic – printing – written by and for printers?

We recently found a digital copy of a poetry book about printing from 1833.  Turning the pages makes you feel like you are at a comfortable British pub house a couple of hundred years ago, raising a glass with inky nails, saying, “Have ye heard this one?”

The title of the book is Songs of the Press and Other Poems Relative to the Art of Printing, gathered by T. Kirk, Printer of Nottingham, 1833.  It is available for download at www.openlibrary.org.

One of the gems we found included a curse or censure by a printer who called down mayhem on his colleague.

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Vintage pressman illustration(illustration courtesy of Briarpress.org)

The Poet’s Anathema by R.S. Coffin

On a printer who had displeased him.
May all your columns fall in pie,
Each chase be gnawed by rust;
Weak, weak as water be your lye,
Your cases filled with dust.
May all your sticks untrue be made,
Your frames too high or low;
No page upon the stone be laid
Where it should rightly go.

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Book an Job Printers Illustration(illustration courtesy of Briarpress.org)

How about a song on the Origin of Printing by Dodd, in particular, one that praises good printing and the demise of hand-copying.

Aided by thee, the printed page
Conveys instruction to each age;
When in one hour more sheets appear,

Than Scribes could copy in a year.

An anonymous poet captured that moment when a printer gets what he is looking for…

Printing Prose Song and Poetry: Printer's Kiss poem

Print on my lip another kiss.
The picture of thy glowing passion;
Nay, this won’t do— nor this — nor this —
But now — Ay, that’s a proof impression!

One more thought to give some perspective on what it meant when you held a book in the 1800’s and the nice thought that countless of our fellow fine press printers still handle many of these tasks themselves.

The following twenty-two occupations are engaged to produce a single book (circa 1873):-The author, the designer, the rag merchant, the paper maker, the stationer, the type founder, the press maker, the ink maker, the roller maker, the chase maker, the reader, the compositor, the press­man, the gatherer, the folder, the stitcher, the leather seller, the binder, the coppersmith, the engraver, the copper-plate printer, and the bookseller.

Are you inspired to pen your own sonnet or lyric to printing?  Send us your verse in the comments section below!

In search of the perfect printing ink – why not do it yourself?

Letterpress printers have many tools at their disposal, such as presswash, line gauges and quoins. Not the least of these is their favored printing ink. Broach this subject with a group of printers in person or an online forum and most can hotly debate the one they can’t live without.

(photograph courtesy of coloranthistory.org. Those interested in purchasing a 13″x19″ archival poster print can reach out to Andy here. )

Yes, we are going to step into that debate and ask specifically which black printing ink do you hold in high esteem but before we do that, we want to entertain you with an article from a book that gives the recipe for making your own.  Looks pretty simple to us but you decide.

The sage instructions of experience come from this book found on openlibrary.org

Six Hundred Receipts, Worth Their Weight in Gold by John Marquardt of Lebanon, PA.

Turn to page 75 – Receipt No. 138  How to make Black Printer’s Ink.

“Printers’ ink is a real black paint, composed of lampblack and linseed-oil, which has undergone a degree of heat superior to that of common drying oils. The manner of preparing it is extremely simple. Boil the linseed-oil in a large iron pot for 8 hours, adding to it bits of toasted bread the purpose of absorbing the water contained in the oil; let it rest till the following morning, and then expose it to the same degree of heat for 8 hours more, or till it has acquired the consistence required; then add lamp-black worked up with a mixture of oil of turpentine and turpentine.

The consistence depends on the degree of heat given to the oil, and the quantity of lampblack mixed up with it; and this consistence is regulated by the strength of the paper for which the ink is intended.

The preparations of printers’ ink should take place in the open air, to prevent the bad effects arising from the vapor of the burnt oil, and, in particular, to guard against accident by fire.”

If one receipt isn’t enough, another is available on page 264 , No. 597  An Excellent Printing-Ink.

Balsam of copaiva, (or Canada balsam,) 9 ounces; lampblack, 3 ounces; indigo and Prussian blue, each 5 drachms; Indian red, 3/4 ounce; yellow soap, (dry,) 3 ounce. Grind it to an impalpable smoothness. Mix with old linseed oil. “

In case you are wondering – the drachms is a unit of weight formerly used by apothecaries, equivalent to 60 grains or one eighth of an ounce.

Letterpress printers, as a group, seem to be interested in trying new things for their art, so we hope that these two recipes might get a try-out or two from someone.  However, it is also fun to note that within the 598 other receipts in this book, you can also find a recipe for peppermint cordial, a cure for the bite of a mad dog, and treatment for scabby heads on children and toothaches.  

Back to our original question, we truly are interested in hearing about your favorite black printing ink, either ones you have used in the past and can’t find anymore or one you use everyday.

Tell us in the comments below!