A Different Kind of Paper Jam
Toner shortages and missing fonts notwithstanding, today’s word processing gadgetry is generally considered an improvement over the printing methods of previous ages. But in the hands of an artist, the nondigital technology of Gutenberg can produce work as sophisticated and beautiful as any desktop-published art piece. Not convinced? Take a stroll to Reeves Library on the Main Street campus of Moravian College and look at "A Fine Line: Art of the Hand Press." The exhibit features pages, broadsheets, posters, cards, and other exquisite samples of letterpress printing techniques. Metal type pieces and other printing paraphernalia are also on display. "Letterpress printing is done with movable type on a hand-powered press, much as printing's been done for the past 450 years," explains Jim Tyler, adjunct instructor of Latin and former interim archivist at Reeves.
Jim became interested in letterpress printing about 25 years ago, when an opportunity to try a hand press at Cornell University eventually led to his being given custody of an entire print shop’s worth of equipment. "I like that you can do it with your hands, that you can feel what you’re creating…there are no electronics between your fingers and the letters." The mechanical nature of the process affects the results: pages produced letterpressing tend to have a distinct, dramatic look, thanks to the texture created by the bite of rasied type into the paper. Color is used sparingly and thoughtfully, since each additional hue must be hand-printed separately. Yet as the exhibit shows, the hand press allows a wide range of styles and possibilities. "It’s remarkable what you can do with fairly simple equipment," Jim notes.
"A Fine Line: Art of the Hand Press" will be installed on the lower level of Reeves library the week of March 26, and will be exhibited through the end of the spring semester.