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Letterpress in NYC, Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing using a printing press, a process by which many copies are produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper. A worker composes and locks movable type into the "bed" or "chase" of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.
Letterpress printing from raised metal type was the primary means of mass communication for over 500 years. While no longer an economically significant segment of the printing market, letterpress continues to live on for specialized commercial applications and, perhaps more importantly,
In practice, letterpress also includes other forms of relief printing with printing presses, such as wood engravings, photo-etched zinc "cuts" (plates), and linoleum blocks, which can be used alongside metal type, or wood type, in a single operation, as well as stereotypes and electrotypes of type and blocks. With certain letterpress units it is also possible to join movable type with slugs cast using hot metal typesetting. In theory, anything that is "type high" or .918 inches can be printed using letterpress
Letterpress started to become largely out-of-date in the 1980s because of the rise of computers and new self-publishing print and publish methods. Many printing establishments went out of business from the 1980s to 1990’s and sold their equipment after computers replaced letterpress’s abilities more efficiently. These commercial print shops discarded presses, making them affordable and available to artisans throughout the country. Popular presses are, in particular, Vandercook cylinder proof presses and Chandler & Price platen presses. In the UK there is particular affection for the Arab press, built by Josiah Wade in Halifax. Letterpress recently has had a rebirth in popularity because of the “allure of hand-set type” and the differences today between traditional letterpress and computerized printed text. Letterpress is unique and different from standard printing formats that we are currently used to. Letterpress commonly features a relief impression of the type, although this was considered bad printing in traditional letterpress. Letterpress's goal before the recent revival of letterpress was to not show any impression. The type touched the paper slightly to leave a transfer of ink, but did not leave an impression. This is often referred to as "the kiss" An example of this former technique would be newspapers. Contemporary letterpress has a distinct goal of showing the impression of type, to distinctly note that it is letterpress. Since its revival letterpress is largely has been used for fine art and stationery as its traditional use for newspaper printing is no longer relevant for use.
Contemporary letterpress is considered a craft as it involves using a skill and is made by hand. A small amount of high-quality art and hobby letterpress printing remain across North America. This fine letterpress work is crisper than offset litho because of its impression into the paper, giving greater visual definition to the type and artwork, although it is not what letterpress traditionally was meant for. Today, many of these small letterpress shops survive by printing fine editions of books or by printing upscale invitations and stationery. These methods often use presses that require the press operator to feed paper one sheet at a time by hand. These printmakers are just as likely to use new printing methods as old, for instance by printing photopolymer plates (used in modern rotary letterpress) on restored 19th century presses.
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