Stationery connoisseurs know that letterpress printing is the original machine based printing method, but today it forms only a small niche produced by highly skilled artisans. However, for those who are not familiar with it here is brief introduction.
Letterpress traces its roots back to Gutenberg, where machine presses were used to ‘relief print’ or press individual letters made from reusable type blocks onto paper. These fonts were grouped into various typefaces which were distinguished by weight, size, width etc.
The original screw presses were later replaced by roller presses and all manner of incremental advances ensued, but in essence the concept of pressed ink on paper remained for over 400 years. Advances in offset lithographic printing in the 1950’s, followed in the 1980’s by computer-based ‘desk-top publishing’ and laser printing all but killed off letterpress, but happily today the craft is enjoying a revival.
The great appeal of letterpress stationery is its distinctive and old fashioned charm, coupled with a rather crisp definition to the type; it is this that sets it apart from modern print methods. The relief or indentations on the products are rather special too, as is the sometimes ‘distressed’ appearance which is the result of using antique wooden blocks. Letterpress stationery offers a striking and sought-after alternative to its modern counterparts. .
Letterpress is a truly artisan and highly skilled craft (it takes years to become a master printer) and if you are ever lucky enough to see a press in action, you’l be impressed by the engineering of these old machines.
Given that here at Spotlight Stationery we’re obsessive about all things paper and ink, we were delighted to be able to curate a collection of letterpress stationery for our February subscription box in conjunction with Ledbury Letterpress. The illustrations were designed by Charlotte Evans and set into the presses by Master printer Martin Clark at Tilley Printing (which remarkably has been in its current premises since 1875!).
Follow this link to some images from the workshop used to the produce February’s subscription box.