I’ve always wanted to have a go at ‘proper’ printing and this Sunday afternoon I got the chance to do just that on a letterpress workshop run by Lionel at Mr Magpie in Brighton’s North Laine. Letterpress originated in the mid 1400s and was the primary method of printing for over 500 years until the 20th century when offset printing took over. It’s mainly used now for more artistic and personal projects.
It was fascinating learning the origins of words and terms I use daily in my design and typography work; eg the term leading (line spacing) comes from strips of actual lead that are used to separate lines of text. It also gave me an appreciation of the great skills printers had when the only method of producing printed text was to use letterpress printing. Each letter has to be placed by hand, all spacing judged by eye, then there’s the small matter of inking and getting a clean impression which I found easier said than done!
After a brief intro in setting lead type we moved on to designing a poster using wood block letters, I loved rifling through the drawers of different fonts choosing which ones to use; the letter blocks are beautiful objects in their own right. Then it was time for inking and ‘pulling’ my prints… you can see the results of my efforts above. The hours flew by and I definitely want to go back and do more, I really enjoyed getting hands on with type and getting some actual ink on my fingers. I might get a bit quicker and neater after a few more tries!
I think the workshop is a great, unusual present for someone too… it was bought for me for my birthday before Christmas, so thank you very much Mr B.