Printing Heritage at Hamilton Wood Type & Museum

(All photos courtesy of Knorth Studios)

Jim Moran of Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum recounts a day in his life at this stunning printing museum. Housing aisles upon aisles of history, craftsmanship, and deep printing roots, the Museum is a testament to the old (and new) ways printing remains such a treasured part of our culture.

I always get to the museum first thing in the morning. Maybe I need to slowly gather my thoughts but there’s something else. 

Turning on the lights, I take a long walk in this place. I’m trying to see everything and what needs to be done. The sander for half-rounds has a coil of wires that I’ve never liked and ought to be cut off. There is a display of patterns that seem to have been cut a hundred years ago and they seem more like sketches in wood. The pencil marks are precise as an architect’s. And why cedar? What an awful wood to cut cross-grain. Who did them? Could it have been a William Page employee that Hamilton brought here?

Among the type displays, I pause in front of Arabesque. The smoky strokes seem sixty-ish and I think of Janis Joplin posters. The row of platen presses are out of order. They should be chronological. Some need rollers, the treadle on the Challenge should be reconnected, there’s no tympan paper on a few and what could I lock up in their chases to explain the process better. 

In the “Central Room”, I dislike the name itself for being non-descript. I want to cover the walls behind the linotypes with newspaper pages from back in the day. Nearby, a Miehle is too gummed up with ink and grease and a Heidelberg serves mostly as a source to rob parts from. When will I get the ruling machine running again? 

Now in the staff pressroom, I’m tempted to put on an apron and run posters of horse races all day long. Maybe all week. The blocks are frozen in action of galloping hooves that will only come to life in printing. They may not have seen ink since the 50s. I wonder about registering their colors and the thrill of the first print that’s never left me since age 10 when I first set and printed my own name. Magic! Random type cases lean in small spaces, hoping to be filled again with Caslon or Engraver’s Text. I think there’s a cabinet in the back they’ll fit into but I resist the urge to check. 

The classroom lights snap on and I read each switches name; House left, House center, House right. The names mean nothing until Wayzgoose, which reminds me I need to create a backdrop for the presenter’s stand. Before I can do that there are boxes of blocks, mostly musician based, that have to be archived but not today. Better to prep for a workshop this weekend and replace those lights in the corner of the room.

Finally, in the gallery, everything is lit and I look over the exhibit again. It’s a good show that I’m lucky to consider for many days. I should look at new emails. Staff will arrive soon and there’s bound to be something I ought to be doing. Maybe printing horses.

For more information and fun about the wonderful Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum please visit their Facebook and Instagram pages!


Of & Type and Men

Trekking northwestward from the the sprawling Milan palazzos rests the quiet & serene city of Varese, Italy, surrounded by rolling fields of the awe-inspiring Italian countryside. Taking a closer look into the city, you’ll find the vibrant camaraderie that flows from the & Type print shop. Claudio, Gabriele, and Simone, the founders of & Type, opened their doors for us, letting in the passionate and experimental energy that engulfs their letterpress and printing abode. & Type is a letterpress print shop based in Varese, Italy

THE PRESSES We have four machines: 2 presses made by Saroglia (from Torino, Italy) 70×100 cm and 40×60 cm, 1 small manual press 23×32 cm, and 1 Nebiolo Ideale “a battuta” (as we say in Italian for “beat”), but this last one doesn’t work.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 70 square meters… almost 750 square feet.

TYPE OF SHOP We are just a laboratory, but often it is enjoyed with friends, interested people, or guests that join us for different purposes like projects, workshops, or just for type love sharing.

THE LOCATION Near the Liberty train station (in Varese, Italy).

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Our machines, wood type, typography, lettering books, and our friendship. We are surrounded by several posters, books, and music that are good sources of ideas. Last month, a beautiful puppy arrived, which is such great company!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE We have three printers. We don’t share the place with other people, but anyone is admitted to print with us or just to come enjoy with us. We prefer to be considered as only one mind because & Type is the mixing of the knowledge about letterforms of all of us.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Pencil & hands.

FAVORITE INK Well, we always take time to figure out what color is most suitable for our purposes. We like to use typographic ink penetration, or rapid drying, that helps us to see details in our linocut matrix. Currently we enjoy finding and trying particular colors like metallic, fluorescent and glowing ones.  In our country, it is not easy to find all the colors we want; some of them are prohibited because of their chemical compositions.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE White spirit (turpentine), self-cleaning mechanisms, old towels and of course elbow grease. If you have some good cotton sheets, it’s not hard work.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We mostly use furniture linoleum used by gauges, but we also like to work with wood, MDF and different kinds of rubber. If it comes up that we find some interesting texture materials, we love to try it.

OIL OF CHOICE For gearboxes: synthetic oil; for the lubrication of open parts: UV-40 or oil for sewing machines.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Towels, sheets, pants, T-shirts, shirts – everything that otherwise should be in rubbish.

FLOORING MATERIAL Industrial concrete flooring.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Work in an illuminated space.

PIED TYPE None.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Clean up after printing and have a relaxation area with some comfortable chairs.

PRINTING ADVICE To center the matrix, we used to draw the matrixes’ shapes on the print area with transparent paper, so we would know where to put every different color for posters. Custom engraving, friendly puppy mascot, and hand-crafted printed pieces of & Type of Italy.

Typography spotted in the Big Apple

While in New York City recently for the National Stationery Show, we found that not everything inspiring was happening just inside the Javits Center.  With a sharp eye, there was some appealing typography in signage that was spotted during our travels.  We all can appreciate a well turned font and a clever capital that gets the message across.  Shown here are just four images we snapped, but we also recommend checking out the artful NYC Type, a site that reveals some of the classic lettering hidden high and low along the streets of New Y0rk City.  Click on each picture on the NYC Type website for the location of each photo.

Clockwise from the top: Harrington’s Bar & Grill on 7th Avenue | Classic serifs on 42nd Street with Madame Tussauds | Houndstooth Pub on 8th Avenue | More serifs grace the Regal Theatre marquee.