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Jul 3 / Scott

Letterpress Printing in Czar’s Russia

On this 4th of July, I thought I would share this reproduction of an article in the Miller & Richards 1907 Type Specimen Book from Edinburgh, Scotland.  It certainly makes American letterpress printers appreciate our “Freedom of the Press”

Printing in Russia

At a time when attention is constantly being directed to the land which bulks so large in the map of Europe, something concerning the conditions attendant on the exercise of the craft of printing amongst its people will be appropriate.  An American contemporary states that from the moment a Russian subject petitions the Czar’s Government, through the Minister of the Interior, for a concession to conduct either a printing or publishing business, he is subject to the most galling regulations, restrictions and surveillance that the Muscovite mind is capable of conceiving.  A most searching enquiry is made by the secret police in the antecedents of the applicant, and if found that the slightest suspicion was ever entertained as to the loyalty of any member of the family, this fact is held to be sufficient reason for a peremptory refusal of the concession, even though the life record of the applicant may have been beyond reproach from an official standpoint.

The policy of the Russian Government is restrictive in the extreme.  Publicity and dissemination of progressive ideas are most strictly tabooed, and as a precaution, the Government exercises complete control over every printing office and type foundry throughout the empire, and neither of these establishments can be opened without first securing very special authorisation, which each year is becoming more and more difficult to obtain.

The Minister of the Interior, next to the Czar the most powerful official in Russia, has absolute sway in the matter of granting petitions, and he may render his decision when he sees fit, and it is no uncommon occurrence for the petition to find a final resting place in an obscure pigeon hole, the applicant having to await this official’s pleasure. An appeal would be worst than useless.  Should the printer be so fortunate as to obtain the concession, the

EXCEEDINGLY HEAVY RESPONSIBILITIES

that accompany it and the resistive censorship that fetters his every action, and his helpless dependence upon a number of venal officials devoid of scruples of any kind, are sufficient to crush out much of the enterprise with which he may have originally been endowed.

 

Jun 10 / Scott

The APA Wayzgoose at Hamilton

The Amalgamated Printers Association, the professional association of people in the world interested in everything dealing with letterpress printing, will be holding their annual “Wayzgoose” convention the 3rd weekend in June.  This year the event is being held at the newly reopened Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

There will be demonstrations on historical machines, lecturers, and workshops.  I will presenting two workshops on the art of cutting wood type in modern times and a historical presentation on the history of wood type.  I will take along one of my small line pantographs and the participants will spend the rest of the morning cutting their own wood type on a pantograph.

Although the Museum has volunteers cutting wood type on their own working historic pantographs, the public is not allowed to use it.  I am one the lucky few non-museum staff to be allowed to cut a piece of type on the Hamilton Pantograph. On a recent visit to the Museum I helped them change the bearings in their air routers that cut the type.  These pantograph routers run at 50,000 RPM, and are old enough to originally specify for maintence that you should “Oil daily with 1 drop of whale oil”. They now have modern high speed sealed steel bearings so no more need for whale oil.

One of the best parts of any APA Wayzgoose is the auction and swappers day.  Some of the best deals on very old letterpress books, equipment, supplies, presses, and both wood and metal type can be found on swappers day.  I will be there selling new pantograph and laser cut wood type at my sales table.  If I can get my daughter to set at my table for a bit of time I will wander around the sale and pick up a specimen book or a tool I’m missing.

This year I have been experimenting with laser cutting historical designs in end grain hard maple.  I have been lucky enough to already have the required vector art files for the laser since I have been creating all my patterns using Adobe Illustrator.  I just now can make things much smaller with no trimming.  I am also trying my hand at a few small line wood type fonts. I will also be selling new catchwords, fancy star box sets, and state outline box sets.  Laser cutting new wood type has been a learning experience just like everything else.

I hope to see some of my on-line customers at Hamilton. It’s nice to put a face with a printshop name. It’s also nice to spend five days with my printer daughter and all m y letterpress friends

 

Apr 29 / Scott

Replacement Letter Math

One of the most requested services from Moore Wood Type is making replacement letters.  There are some beautiful wood fonts out there in a printer’s type case that are missing the K or J (these are the most missing letters in most wood fonts), or they have only one “E”, or no letter “A”.

When you look at fonts on E-bay or at Don Black’s much less expensive site of www.donblack.ca and run the letters and numbers you often don’t buy it because a few are missing.  Almost every printer I have talked with bring up that they need a replacement letter or some duplicate letters.  I am even working on making some duplicate border corner blocks (there always seems to just be 3 of them) for a good friend as an experiment.

A friend in the APA was working with me on a registration form for the June Wayzgoose at Hamilton. He mentioned in passing that he had a 20 line wood font that only had one  uppercase “R”. He wondered if I could make him 4 more R’s if he sent me the one he had?   The easiest way to make duplicate letters is to make a 1:1 ratio copy with the small pantograph.  However, some time there are some rough or damaged areas on the older type and it will not work as a pattern.  The original type is still useful to get an exact digital measurement of the base, and to check the “Heft” of the strokes on the new type.

This uppercase 20 line R had smooth sides, but the counter (center of the R) was very full of 100 years worth of dried ink.  I decided to scan it, drop it into Adobe Illustrator, and make a 1/4″ plywood pattern at 1 1/2 size.  The base block was also 0.022 inch short of 20 lines.

The additional pantograph math was the choice of tracer and cutter.  Because the ratio was 1 1/2 to 1, the tracer had to be 1 1/2 times as big a diameter as the 3/64″ cutter.

The biggest lesson I have learned in 4 years of cutting wood type is that the MATH IS EVERYTHING!  So much knowledge has been loss about the wood type industry.  I have learned so much about the process by experimenting. In the first year I filled up a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket with mistakes. This year it is only a small coffee can so far.