In Type-Top Shape With Archivio Tipografico

Nestled in the northwestern corner of Italy is the vibrant city of Torino — city that boasts beautiful plazas, gorgeous views, and of course the hidden gem that is Archivio Tipografico. Davide Tomatis, a cheerful member of the type-based shop, was able to take a minute between press runs to talk shop, the overflowing array of rare type and the joy of coming home to his letterpress “family” on the weekends.

Emanuele Mensa, Davide Tomatis, Davide Eucalipto, Anna Follo, and Nello Russo - Gabriele Fumero of Archivio Tipografico
(from left to right: Emanuele Mensa (our mentor!), Davide Tomatis, Davide Eucalipto, Anna Follo, Nello Russo, and Gabriele Fumero)

LETTERPRESS ADDICT I am not a conventional printer… I’m primarily a graphic designer addicted to good type, and I’ve always been fascinated by type in all of their shapes and typologies. About three years ago, I found a letterpress workshop online in my hometown. My brain stopped for a second watching the screen, and I remember thinking something along the lines of “what the hell are those wooden letters? Did there really exist a printing technology before the inkjet printer?”

Vibrant green hand-set letterpress poster from Archivio Typographico

Hand-set wooden type at Archivio Typographico.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT When I entered a printshop for the first time, I was 20 years old and knew nothing about typography, but it was clear to me that I needed to learn everything about that world. Back then, Archivio Tipografico was “just” a huge collection, not a real printshop as it is right now. I started working there in my spare time, cleaning old type and ordering them in their drawers. During the following two years the team got bigger, and now it is comprised of six people (Anna, Davide, Emanuele, Gabriele, Nello, and me).

INKING UP IN ITALY Archivio Tipografico is a really big printshop: housing more than 1,600 type drawers, one flatbed press, five platen-presses and two proof-presses. As I said before, it’s not mine but I’m a part of it. We don’t like to think that there exists an owner of the printshop — we see it as the home of our typographic family. Our shop is located in Torino, Italy, and the “letterpress revival” phenomenon is still in its early days here. There are some old little printshops that still use platen and flatbed presses, but we are the only printshop in our area to integrate graphic design, digital tools and traditional printing techniques.

Speaking of exceptional printers, just out of town there’s Enrico Tallone, a great friend of ours and the last Italian publisher that is still composing and printing his books by hand only using movable type. We often visit each other to see the latest printed matter!

Drawers of metal type and a press close-up at Archivio TypographicoLetterpress printing press at Archivio Typographico.

THE BEAUTIFUL TYPE Our collection comes from the dismissal of other printshops in Piemonte (our region) and Liguria. So most of the specimens and typefaces are obviously from Italian Foundries like “Nebiolo” (that was located in Torino) or “Reggiani” (in Milano). We own specimens of nearly all the typefaces designed by Aldo Novarese, one of the most prolific type designers ever and our national “type hero”.

We generally like to use Italian type to revive that “geolocation” effect that got lost with the possibility of having an endless choice of digital typefaces. I think the rarest typefaces we have are “Inkunabula”, a typeface designed by Raffaello Bertieri in 1921 for “Società Augusta” (the previous name of Nebiolo) and “Fontanesi”, a really elaborate ornate typeface designed by Aldo Novarese in 1954 for the Nebiolo foundry.

Drawers of metal type and a letterpress sample of the Inkunabula typeface at Archivio Typographico.

PRESS HISTORY I first learned to print on an Asbern proof press and later on a platen-press called Hohner Rapid II, with the help of Emanuele, the skilled printer who founded Archivio Tipografico. He is my mentor. He actually knows how to solve any problem about letterpress printing. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t ask him a question as there isn’t one that he can’t answer.

A wide array of printing inks and beautiful printing samples at Archivio Tipografico. On press at Archivio Typographico.

LATE NIGHT PRINTING Printing is primarily a passion. It’s not our first job so we print after our main work and on every Saturday, but we’re trying to fix this situation.

THE CREATIVE FLOW Every one of us was born as a designer and is now learning to print, except for Emanuele, who was mainly a printer. Thanks to our different backgrounds we’re always searching for the perfection in both printing and graphic composition. We don’t have a defined style as we like being inspired from everything that we stumble across — from old books, to modern graphic design, passing through Italian specimen-books designed in the seventies.

A flatbed Voirin press and Linotype a tArchivio Typographico

PRINTSHOP FEATS Our main accomplishment is actually moving the whole printshop last year. It took us more than two months and a lot of sweat. The moving of the whole collection was very hard. All the platen and flatbed presses were moved by a professional carrier because it’s really impossible to move tons and tons of cast iron perfectly without knowing what you’re doing.

We also decided to donate to a museum two of the machine we owned: a flatbed press from the late 1800’s called Voirin, and a Linotype, as we weren’t really using them. We rented a big van for two weekends to move everything else (type drawers, cabinets, tools, ink cans, etc…) and that was the first time we counted how many drawers we own: it was a bit of a shock!

In the process of emptying the old space we found many typefaces we forgot about, and we managed not to lose anything! We divided in two teams, one in the old space removing all the drawers from the cabinets, numbering them, loading them on pallets and then loading pallets on the van. The other team was in the new place, unloading the van and reassembling the cabinets. I made a map of the new layout of presses and drawers that was ignored during the moving, but everything magically fit in anyway! Special equipment that was needed: gloves, pallets, transpallet, latino music, elbow grease and patience. It never seemed to end.

SHOP TIPS If you’re printing on a platen press always remove the gauge pins when setting up a new job. Emanuele always told me that in order to correctly learn… one has to make every mistake at least once, but that one is the kind of mistake that I sadly keep making.

Gorgeous Eat Drink Print hand-set letterpress poster from Archivio Tipografico.

WHAT’S NEXT Our main inspiration has always been “Tipografia Marchisio” of Torino. It was a legendary printshop in Torino, the best place to have one’s business cards printed regarding printing quality and elegance of typographic composition. Our aim is to become 50% like them and 50% like an American letterpress & graphic design studio. Our new printshop gave us the possibility to be more productive and organized so we can print more and work on multiple projects at the same time.

Another big plan for 2015 is to sort and catalogue our whole type collection (so to use it more and better) and digitalize the coolest and rarest fonts/type we own.

Extremely huge round of thanks to Davide for letting us getting a peek at the beautiful & amazing Archivio Tipografico! Molto bello!

The Creative Buzz of Wasp Print

Through nearly a decade of printing adventures (from printing with Hello!Lucky to opening up shop in his current printing abode in the creative neighborhood hub of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn), Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print continues to deliver whether it’s serving up a fresh batch of letterpress printed goodies or being inspired by the non-stop creative forces that swirl in New York City. We were able to catch Nicholas for a hot minute to talk shop, where to get the best delivery for those late night print runs, and of course… the mesmerizing awe of watching a Heidelberg Windmill & his beloved Vandercook in action.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

CREATIVE MAVEN  I am a printer, artist, tattoo collector, maple syrup snob, whiskey drinker, paper fanatic, amateur gardener, drummer, and lover of ink. I live in Brooklyn with my wife Erin, who is an excellent printer on the Vandercook and a poet & writer. We have a 9 lb chihuahua named Reno, who is an extremely accomplished and obsessive fetcher.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

LETTERPRESS OBSESSED I was first introduced to letterpress while studying printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute. After spending three years learning etching and lithography I was excited to print something where the machine was doing most of the work and large editions were made with ease. After school I worked for 4 years mostly printing greeting cards for Hello!Lucky. They were a wonderful company to work for and it gave me a lot of experience in production printing. The deeper I waded into letterpress printing the more obsessed I became. It’s pretty much the only thing in the world that makes any sense to me.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

EAST WILLIAMSBURG WONDER I share the space with another awesome designer/printer, Dan from Sheffield Product. We both love collecting old equipment but operate in a tiny space. Together we have a 10×15 Windmill, 219 Old style Vandercook, 305MC Challenge Paper Cutter, a ton of type and other little bits of equipment. We’re located in a big warehouse building in East Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I print a lot of business cards and some personal stationery as well. I love the hustle and bustle of the city and feature quick turnaround times for those New Yorkers who are moving at lightning speed. We also love collaborations with artists and making political posters with hand set type.

Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

DESIGNED FOR PRINT I’m both a designer and a printer. I enjoy designing but really love collaborating with other artists and printers. It is fun to work with people who don’t understand the process because they always bring something new & challenging to the table.

CREATIVE INFLUENCES I really enjoy looking for old printed design elements. I love bright colors and patterns. New York City has a wealth of inspiration for me. Hand painted signs, architecture, and mosaics all influence my design work. A meandering walk through the city always leads to exciting inspiration. I once made a design based on chewing gum on subway platform. I was designing something that looked spacey and noticed that the gum on the platform looked like planets in a solar system.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

Behind the scenes at Wasp Print shop in Brooklyn

FULL TIME FUN Yes, this is a full time operation. After working for other printers and stationers for 10 years I finally set up my own shop a year ago. I work some seriously long hours. Fortunately there are tons of awesome food delivery places nearby and Fleetwood Mac albums to keep me sustained. I see a lot of old printers going out of business who are not keeping up with the design aesthetic and print needs of people in this city. It’s sad to see them go but they are operating on an outdated model of what printing is presently used for. I have found that there is actually a huge market for printing and letterpress. There’s a real longing in this digital age for a well made and tangible object.

PRINTING FEATS I love making wood type posters and every time I make one I am proud of it whether it’s a political poster that I can distribute at a demonstration or a poster for a local whiskey distiller.

Letterpress Posters by Wasp Print

BOXCAR’S ROLE The Boxcar Base and plate system has been great to letterpress printers everywhere. Plate switchover on a Boxcar Base is the easiest and fastest system.

PRESS HISTORY I learned how to print on Vandercooks but the first real press I ever bought was a Windmill. It really is the most beautiful machine. Once you start using one of these it’s hard to go back to any other machine. The feeding, registration, inking and impression are all top notch with this press. It looks like a perfectly choreographed ballet every time I turn it on.

Heidelberg Windmill at Wasp Print in Brooklyn, NY

SHOP TIPS I keep my best tricks a secret, but the best advice I can give anyone who is interested in letterpress is to have patience and enjoy the problem solving aspects of the work. We do this not because it is easy but because the finished product looks great. Expect every job to be a struggle – you might have to fight the paper, ink, press or design- but hopefully not all four.

Letterpress samples from Wasp Print in Brooklyn

WHAT’S NEXT I plan to keep on printing, expanding our equipment and making more posters with members of NYC’s passionate and amazing activist community. I would like to get into making ‘zines and books too!

Huge round of thanks out to Nicholas Hurd of Wasp Print for letting us take a peek into his inspiring world of letterpress!

Type Lice Bait

A Type Lice bait that is effective on pests but safe for printers!

Print shops have long battled the ubiquitous type lice that settles deep into their metal and wood type drawers.   The parasite is not life threatening but can leave dander that causes sneezing and rashes when the type is handled.

There are many different suggested treatments for luring, trapping, and eliminating these lice.  We offer a natural bait that is irresistible to the lice and will clean up any infestation in less than one week.  The bait is dabbed in small amounts onto a quarter size piece of paper and placed in the trap.

This works with all trap, but we have found the best type lice trap is this model created by Ivan Gulkov of Pillowface Press.  It is simple in design, uses recycled materials, and works well with the type lice bait. We welcome the submissions of other trap designs and models.

The bait comes in a 3 ounce squeeze bottle where you can dispense small amounts at a time.  The lice will flock to the bait, be trapped in the lice trap and can be disposed of quickly.  The bottle will last for approximately 50 applications, leaves no residue and has no odor.  It is
from natural organic compounds and hypoallergenic.

Contact local printer supply shops for this eco- friendly product for all print studios.  This product offer may expire April 1, 2012

Hunting In the Type Drawers

Here at Boxcar Press, it’s not all about the photopolymer.  People shouldn’t be surprised to know that Harold has a secret room with California Job cases and type cabinets.  Some have never even been unwrapped.

So many of you can understand the feeling, then, when we get a chance to pull out drawers and search through for treasures.  I am partial to the larger wood type and the ornaments.  We hope you enjoy a few of the ornaments and type we find.

These two images are sending the silent message that we should go get a cold one and a jumbo burger – loaded!

The other one is our salute to the military with insignias from the United States Marine Corp, United States Navy W.A.V.E.S (anchor with propeller) and the United States Coast Guard.

Amos Kennedy Prints!

Last week, we were honored to have famed letterpress printer Amos Kennedy pay us a visit. In town for Amos Kennedy Prints, a special exhibition at the Community Folk Art Center at Syracuse University, Amos shared with us his love for old wood type and snapped lots of photos of our newly expanded print shop. (Also, it should be noted that Amos is one of the funniest guys we’ve ever met and had us cracking up the whole time he was here.)





(Umm…we may or may not have been really excited to have Amos drop by for a while.)

Of course, it was only fitting for a Boxcar contingency to go visit Amos in action on the opening day of the exhibit where his passion for wood type, bold color and political innuendo took center stage. As a sponsor of the exhibition, one of our old Vandercooks stands proud and at the ready now through April 4. More details can be found at the Community Folk Art Center’s website. If you’re in the Syracuse area, don’t miss the chance to take part in this special event. Thanks for stopping by, Amos!