Sunday, June 30, 2013

Typesetting is Alive and Well at Paper Wren Press!

There was a time not too awfully long ago when what was known as "job printing" - short order printing that usually fell in the category of printed forms, small menus, news letters, bill heads, business cards, all those sorts of printing orders that moved the business community on its merry way.  Job printing also took in the printing of announcements, greeting cards, sometimes Post Cards, and in the case of the shop where I operated the Letterpress alongside the big 36" ATFs and other offset presses, Karate Certificates for Y.K. Kim, Judo and Karate Master Extraordinaire.  Every member of our shop managed to get their own Black Belt Karate certificate!

As late as 1974, we kept a couple Hamilton cabbies of what is known as "California Job Cases", type drawers, filled with a selection of fonts in different point sizes.  At that time, the standard job font (or what is sometimes called the "House Font") was Century School Book and Bodoni.  For those occasional Wedding announcements that were on some occasions turned over to me, we had what was called "Wedding Text", a sort of Black-letter text that is sometimes called Old English.  We also had a beat-up case of Cursive.  I think it was Edwardian.  We also had the ubiquitous "Brush" and "Park Avenue" in 36 and 48 point type.

For those orders that required fonts or character counts that went beyond our "job font" counts, or the number of Upper Case and Lower Case characters we had per font, we had the local Type Setters down by the Train Station, on Sligh Street, known as "Orlando Graphics".  Orlando Graphics had a few bays of Linotype Machines that could produce lines of characters on a single slug.  We would place the necessary order, and on the way in to work the next day, I would pick it up, run it at work, and drop it off so they could melt it back down in the "pig", to re-cast again.  

This was the way "job printing" was done in America for over one hundred years, since the first line casters came into Orlando in the 1880s,  and in the case of hand setting "foundry type" from a type case, the prior 170 years, since the first Washington Press was trucked down to Orange City to print their first News Paper in 1840, a scant five years before Statehood. (date is approximate.  This Washington Press is still in the family, E.O. Painter, of DeLeon Springs, Florida.  I've handled it.)

In the tradition of the old Central Florida job printers, and in the tradition of my first area of professional training, I take in the occasional "job" order.  After all, our beloved Iron Horses are known traditionally as "Platen Job Presses".  Indeed, almost all of the Flywheel type platen presses made since the Ruggles Card Press of 1820 were dedicated Job Presses!  My C&P and Kluge presses are especially suited for this sort of work.  Despite the current trend in Letterpress to use Polymer Plates, Paper Wren Press still uses wood mounted copper dies, and we keep about twenty cases of Foundry Type on hand, specifically for hand-set job-orders.

Today's order is a Banquet Announcement for the Central Florida Pregnancy Center, our local crisis pregnancy center.  The order came in the traditional way, whether or not they were aware of it.  The text was written out on paper, arranged in the manner in which they wished the letters to be arranged, with a sort of indication which lines were to be pronounced.  They left it to me exactly which fonts and sizes to use.  The size of the card is 3.5 x 5 inches, single sided.  It will be printed on 100lb Neenah card stock, smooth, off-white.  A sort of Ivory colour.  They will be supplying the paper.

This is the orientation which the compositor, or "type setter" views type as it is being set in the composition stick.  Type is "pegged" into the "stick" from left to right, upside down, "nicks-up".  Each line has a properly cut 1pt. lead in between, separating lines of type.  This gives rise to the term "leading out" a line, still used by digital typesetters today.  

The first line is 18pt "Open" Caslon, from a foundry font cast by the American Type Founders about a century ago.  The next line is an Edwardian cursive,  18 pt cast on a 24pt body.  The next line repeats the use of the Open Face Caslon.  The next line is set in 12pt. Caslon Old Style, cast by Quaker City Type Foundry in Honeybrook P.A., the same foundry Colonial Williamsburg uses for their colonial print shop. The next line is 12pt Caslon Italic.  The rest of the lines interleave 12pt "book" Caslon 337 with the 18pt Caslon open face 18pt.

As an Artisan Printer, the use of hand-set type is not only a practical resource, but it is also an art unto itself.  Handset metal type dates all the way back to Gutenberg, in the 1450s.  It is a tradition that remained virtually unchanged for over 500 years.  I am amazed at the reluctance of today's boutique Letterpress Establishments to go beyond their Polymer dies and Boxcar bases.  Yes, metal type isn't cheap, and yes, it makes for a heavier chase....that's what "heavy-metal" printing is all about, gang!  The most pure form of printing "by hand".  

And . . . the most beautiful.  Nothing beats Handset.  Nothing.

Paper Wren Press is among the very few Letterpress operations in Florida offering this service (as far as I am aware).  University of Tampa / Tampa Bay Book Arts Studios still do handset and line-casting.  Beyond TBAS and ourselves, I am unaware of any other in the State.

That's it from Paper Wren Press.  Please feel free to contact us from our site at , or email us with any questions or inquires regard Typesetting by hand, or any other service we provide.  Our email address is  

Look over this blog, and also the "Printer's Blog" for more facets of Letterpress Printing.

-gary, owner.

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