Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Hand Set Valentine, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2: A Handset Valentine.  The object of this series of installments is to provide a sort of "inside look" at the inner workings of traditional typeset design.

 The Paper Wren is not what you would call a "modern" operation that strictly uses Adobe Illustrator and Polymer Plates.  When propriety demands, we do use vector design for our traditional metal, copper, wood-mounted dies, following a paradigm as close to the original 1870s methodology as possible.  The goal of Paper Wren Press, however,  is not only to produce beautiful printed products, but to do so authentically, because an authentic process produces an authentic product! 

The final lock-up was amazingly easy as far as this sort of Forme goes.  Only two "sinkers", strips of paper used to help out a 'loose' line of type.  She held out beautifully.  

So....what do you think about the crazy carving on my furniture?  I think it's some sort of Runic secret code.  I inherited a lot of my wood furniture (actually, all my furniture), this was the only piece that was, how would you call it? - Engraved.  I kept it because geometrics and angles fascinate me.  I guess that's why I love letters so much.

The next thing I did was ink up the press.  I did it a little differently this time, by doing the mix directly on the ink disk of the press.  It's not a bad way to visualize colour ratios, really.

I guess you might call this ration 5:3, red to white.  I wonder how long it takes for the rollers to complete the mix on the disk as they roll over the disk as the disk rotates, spreading out the ink?  I would soon find out!

Wow, I need to remember this the next time I want any faux - marbling done!  I'll wager I could simply lay the paper on the disk and roll it off with this pattern!  Maybe....some wrapping paper in our future?

It's really amazing.  The photos do not do justice!  It looks like a deep space shot, with several nebulae and other astronomical patterns in repetition.  Little by little, in the next few minutes, these patterns would blur away slowly, forming a nice, even, light red, just shy of pink colour.

Soon, the forme is snapped in place on the type bed, and a first trial impression is printed.  The packing and makeready is already in place from the last typeset run, I only had to change the tympan sheet.  The test sheet is an off-cut of Lettra, which is the same colour and weight I will be using for the card itself.

A wee bit of a close-up.  I'm happy with the proof.  The staff is happy with it as well.  Nothing really to edit, all pieces are going the direction I wanted them to go.  Colour is soft, and fairly even.  I have noticed both here, and at other times when using this fleuron border that there is a difference in thickness between the right and left oriented tulips (or lilies).  The left oriented are just a shade broader in stroke than the right.  Nothing that is very noticeable except to the printer who carries a loupe and is hyper particular.  The folks at M&N do a great job casting, and I have noticed that in the very old specimens, this was not uncommon.  Arion must have been using original matrices for these borders.

A close-up on the card itself.  Paper is the house-stock, Crane's Lettra, 110 lb stock, Pearl White.  It's the finest and best sized paper per cost that I know of, as far as letterpress papers available today goes. This shot also shows the different border fonts used to make up the heart design, the Leaf, Maltese Cross, and Fleuron borders.

All that remains is the "photo-shoot".  Ever do a photo-shoot?  It took me as long to take the photos as it took to set, lock, and print this job!  Every time I looked at the photo, I felt compelled to do another variation.  And I am not the most creative or imaginative picture-taker on the block.  You can tell by the use of old postage stamps and philatelic ephemera. 
But...what the heck.  At last, the stamps in my collection can be aired out and used in a different manner beside just looking at them while I turn the pages.  Just so Philatelists know (I can hear you gritting your teeth even now!) - I did not expose the really expensive stuff.  What you see here is the regular postal issue 10 cent blue for coast - to - coast transit, resting atop a "Nesbit" entire cover with a 'bulls-eye' from 1861.  It's a Civil War cover from Bath, NY.

Hmm . . . .maybe this arrangement?

Ok, how about I take out the Nesbit entire and use the Air Mail stamp alone?

Or . . . dispense with the vintage altogether and use one of the early "Love" issues from the 80s?

Decisions, decisions . . . maybe this one to go on the Etsy page?  

As you can see, it's sort of a process just to get the right shots on to the right page.  The nice thing about blogging is that I can put them all here and just talk about 'em.  Maybe even get some opinions!  Oh, notice that I did not use the obligatory spool of thread, thimble and . . . Victorian dinner fork?   Yeah, having surfed about a gazillion Letterpress sites, I've seen some interesting get-ups.

Dinner forks?

What do you think?

Look for these cards to appear soon on our Etsy page.



  1. Great job, Gary. Beautiful design and great finished product. And my choice of photo layouts is the second to last with the two "Love" stamps. Keep up the great work and keep us posted.

  2. Love it! Really like the detail in the type setting. I like the first shot. Maybe next time try a not so modern looking pen if you have one-just a thought. Great work!