Sunday, May 13, 2012

What is Letterpress?

metal type
I’m a little bit of a stationary nerd so when it came to printing our invitations, I knew early on that letterpress was a must-have for our wedding.  What was most surprising was that when I told people about our invitations, the most common question was “what is letterpress?”

Vandercook Press

Letterpress was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1400s and is the oldest form of printing in existence. It was the preferred method of printing until the late 19th Century when it was replaced with offset printing.  For the past 500+ years the process has remained relatively unchanged:  a type and artwork (or in modern times, a polymer plate) are placed on the press, a single raised surface is covered with ink and the art work is then pressed into the paper by the pressure of the printing press.  In my case, I had to hand feed each piece of paper, and repeat the process for each separate color that I used.  

It’s certainly not the easiest or cheapest way to print, and is a very time consuming process, but nothing compares to the unmistakable impression pressed into a soft cotton card. I love letterpress because of its tactile qualities.  You can run your finger over the writing and feel where the ink has been pressed into the paper.  Even a simple line of tiny type says "Touch me!" with its vivid, three-dimensional appearance. 

For the invitees that have never seen or felt letterpress printing on paper, they are all in for a real treat!

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