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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Indie Market Show: A Great Time Had by All!

 The Indie Market Artisan Craft Show took place on Artisan Alley, Deland Florida, this past Sunday, June 2. I have to thank Courtney, of Newfangled Market, for both sponsoring this show, and for the last minute adjustment she worked out which allowed us to set up our 'booth' under the shelter of the parking garage.  Rain was in the forecast, not a good thing for paper goods!  Despite the rain, we had a great turn-out! 

 The primary goal of Paper Wren Press, aside from selling our products, was to introduce ourselves to the local community.  Our table featured A2 stationery cards designed by Anna Coleman, who attended the show  with us, showing her original art as well as her prints.  We also featured our French Empire Post Cards, and our portfolio, showing our custom work over the past few years.  We also had a guest book ready for visitors.

 We had some of our coasters available, too.  In the photo above, you can see a little of the cross section of product offerings we featured during the show.  We also had a video of the Letterpress in operation, all of which can be found on my YouTube channel "wd4nka".  One of the video demonstrators, Alton Shady, came to visit with us along with his sweet wife Rebekah, from the Tampa / New Port Richey area, along with Carl Nudi and Joshua, from the Tampa Book Arts Studio, University of Tampa (TBAS), and Jan, from West Palm.  (Sorry, Josh, I forgot your last name!  Blame it on the hospital visit  - or maybe I'm just getting old... :)

 The photos above and below show the artwork of Anna Coleman, which follow an animorphistic theme: Dogs, along with common woodland creatures, each wearing something which brings out a human character to their own nature.  My favourite is the hedgehog, which I think I can persuade Anna to sketch out for the next run of greeting cards.

Part of my job as Printer and co-owner, is not only to introduce Paper Wren Press, Artisan Letterpress - to the community, but also to educate the community as to what Letterpress is all about.  Central Florida is a rather "Johnny Come Lately" to the Letterpress scene, most folks really don't know what Letterpress is all about.  In fact, we had one person refuse to believe our greeting cards were really Letterpress printed at all, because they do not have a deep deboss.  We showed how Letterpress is not defined by deep impression alone, but rather, by crispness of fine detail and excellent design.  Deboss is only one characteristic of raised surface printing.  Whether or not he believed us is another story . . . .(sigh).

All in all, we sold over twenty units, Anna sold a lot of her paintings, and received commisions to do custom animorphistic "portraits" of pets of some who visited our table.  The greeting cards seemed to be popular, selling a lot of eight-packs and singles, and as well, we had a lot of folks asking questions about custom Wedding stationery.  We'll see what the up-coming months will bring.  Oh, and also, we have one QSL card commission!  Thanks, Nick!

I will be adding more photos of our cards on an upcoming post.  Meanwhile, I have posted, at this point, our French Correspondence Cards on our "G.Johanson Letterpress" Etsy shop site.  I will be adding our other show offereings as well.

That's all for now.  Stay tuned!