BOOKS FOR BEGINNERS ON LETTERPRESS

Some books to inspire or help

In an Internet age, recommending books on printing might seem an odd suggestion, but any real printer is going to enjoy books for much more than screen images can provide…even though digital sources can be invaluable especially if the books are hard to obtain.

The books here are a limited range of my personal favourites with the beginner in letterpress in mind. As they say on TV, ‘Other processes are available’.

INSPIRATION

There’s a rash of books showing work by current letterpress printers, most of whom are from an art background, but don’t overlook the great works of the past, & the creativity of the old craftsmen doing bread-and butter work.

PRINTING FOR PLEASURE by John Ryder: practical advice, discussions on design, good examples, and indeed discussions on the reason to take up printing at all. All in a very compact little book, although of course the details on suppliers are now obsolete.

LETTERPRESS PRINTING: THE ALLURE OF THE HANDMADE by David Jury describes the work of many excellent current letterpress printers and should inspire if it doesn’t overawe you with their skill.

PRINTED EPHEMERA by John Lewis (The 1962 hardback first edition is far superior to later ones.)

FOUR CENTURIES OF FINE PRINTING by Stanley Morison. A history of printing with examples of the best fine (book) designs.

VICTORIAN DELIGHTS by Robert Wood – examples of Victoriana, printing from a single commercial firm full of lively examples of typical work of the time.

DESIGN & LETTERING

Fashions change, tastes differ, but any aspiring printer should at least look at different design styles and advice, and study lettershapes and their importance, even if the result is to go their own way. INTRODUCTION TO TYPOGRAPHY by Oliver Simon. There are plenty of other more detailed works, but this is a good simple start.

TWENTIETH CENTURY TYPE DESIGNERS by Sebastian Carter. Again, there are plenty of books on lettering and designers, but start by studying s few in depth until you find your particular interest

LINKS TO OTHER LETTERPRESS SITES

British Printing Society – Wide range of members from hobby entusiasts to small businesses, artists, and retired printers. Very useful to find someone to get advice from.

Letterpress Alive – packed with links to sites providing materials & equipment for letterpress, and information on letterpress-related activities

The Alembic Press – information, courses

The Briar Press – virtual museum, information, discussions: letterpress community site (in USA, but plenty of relevant links to UK)

The Happy Dragons Press – information, advice, and equipment supplies.

H W Caslon Ltd – for supplies, particularly for Adana machines.

Letterpress Forums:

Nowadays a lot of quiestions are posed and answered through social media groups such as Instagram and Facebook (on the latter in subgroups).

Metal Type Forum still runs as a ‘hot metal’ discussion group on letterpress.

Museums with printing displays:

Robert Smail’s Printing Works (National Trust) Innerliethen, Borders

Ironbridge Gorge Museum (Includes a Printer’s Works) West Midlands

Beamish Museum County Durham

Amberley Museum (Includes a Printer’s Works) West Sussex

John Jarrold Museum Norwich

  • or of course, come and visit us at Press Here!

From advice and tips to articles on history and typography, and sources of supply, there are numerous websites available full of helpful information.

Letterpress has had hobby enthusiasts for decades, long before it virtually vanished commercially, and they are usually very helpful and pleased to encourage newcomers to the craft. Most of the sites (apart from the museum ones) are run by volunteers.