Letterpress workshop

Today I got to attend a typography/letterpress workshop with the first year students. I had never before tried pressing text or even seen how it’s done, so everything was new and exciting to me.


As the first half of today’s workshop our task was to go to the library and search for definitions for words that are key terminology both to letterpress and digital typography. But as we are doing a visual course we were not supposed to write down the definitions but instead draw them on a A3 sheet of paper. That way all the drawings/definitions together would make up “a poster”.

I only had time to do the 14 first words from the list:

  1. An ampersand
  2. Right alignment
  3. Left alignment
  4. Justified alignment
  5. Centered alignment
  6. A paragraph indent
  7. A drop capital
  8. Kerning
  9. Tracking
  10. Leading
  11. Measure (of a paragraph)
  12. Manicule
  13. Ligature
  14. Lining numerals vs. non-lining numerals
My drawn definitions for the words listed above

After lunch we moved to the letterpress room and started exploring the physical printing. First we were told what all the equipment is for and how to use it. Then it was time to start composing the sentences we were supposed to create and print.

The small metallic letterpress characters

It proved to be quite a slow and challenging process. It took me so long to find all the right tiny metal letters, place them the right way on the tray and keep all b’s, d’s, p’s and q’s appart (also u’s, n’s and h’s…).

In the end I managed to create the whole sentence from the characters correctly. Then I fastened it with magnets and the text was ready for printing!

After printing a few good copies of the sentence with the letterpress we could try to press a word using the wooden letters. It was slightly easier because the characters were a lot bigger.


All in all the day was really fun and interesting and I learned a lot about the traditional letterpress. I just can’t even imagine how it was when all printing was done using letterpress! It must have taken so long to complete even one page. Respect!

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