Letterpress note cards: "Rudolf Koch Quote with Optima" from slowprint.com

peterf's picture

The original design was hand-set in foundry Optima and a funky Monotype Deepdene back in the late 1980s, and printed in a small run on the Universal I Vandercook.

I recently discovered the forms still standing in the galley. This new edition is printed on the 10x15 Heidelberg Windmill from photopolymer, made from new repro-proofs taken from the original type, and scanned at 2400 dpi. Minor artifacts from the proofing and scanning were cleaned up in Photoshop prior to making film and plates. However, the original design has not been altered, although it was awfully tempting to tweak the spacing once more before committing it to the press! ;-)

The photo was taken in a strong afternoon sunlight. Apologies for the excessive contrast. Need to find my copy-stand!
The impression is deep, as the dampened paper encourages this, but it's not abysmal! ;-)

These cards are available in packaged sets with Crane Lettra envelopes.

US$9.95 / €12.95 including First Class shipping in stiff cardboard (US & Canada) (Note that even first class packets to Canada now seem to be taking two to three weeks. Hard to believe. Let's blame it on GWBush.)

US$45 / €50 for 6 cards includes S&H (First Class packet to US/Canada; Small packet Air to EU, Surface Packet elsewhere)



peterf's picture

I'd like to address a comment I received from a very particular typophile, regarding the impression in these cards.
And I seem to recall snark from the same quarters regarding my previous posted work as well. Snark is as snark does. You shall know them by their fruits.

While I'm perfectly happy to listen to anybody's "rant" (at least for 30 seconds) I also feel like I have the right, particularly here, to explain my philosophy regarding the unwarranted strong opinions that seem to arise about deep impression in letterpress... as if it's really important considering the state of the real world, earthquakes, wars, poverty, and injustice.... Hello?

I am a printer. I know how to control my press, and I can choose to print however I like.

This is how I like to print, if there are no other considerations, ie, clients or juries, etc etc
Remember the First Amendment, eh?

Why should I print like John Baskerville? I knew John Baskerville, and he was no lover of high-touch impressions.
He rejected the tactile paper of the 17th century in favor of his own invention. No problem with that. "De gustibus non est disputandum", eh what? The light chaste kiss can be quite charming. I know. I own at least three or four volumes printed by Mr Baskerville himself, including his last, Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. Lovely, but chaste. I prefer Aldus' edition of 1515. I have a copy of that as well.

I do prefer the passionate embrace of the paper found in 16th C printing, sometimes messy, but full of life.
The paper was shoved by the quire into vats of water to soften the fiber enough that the lumpy mess of cellulose could all be brought in contact with the type in the form. And impress they most certainly did.

So, for a pretentious interloper to tell me [candidly, says he] that my 'impression is abysmal in every sense" rather raises my hackles... to put it mildly.

I choose to dampen my paper to allow the cellulose to relax fully into that embrace. I use a soft packing in this case, hard in others. I mix my oil-based ink with mag to shorten it, and make it lay perfectly matte and flat at the deep bottom of my impression and I set my rollers so that there is not a micron of excess ink on my plate. A messy printer can't afford to go deep into the paper. The impression will prove their incompetence at controlling the ink and the rollers.

My plates are 21st century high-tech polymer, perfectly suited to printing 100000 impressions just like this one, and a Windmill press which allows me complete control over a full 35 tons of impressional strength. Who dares to tell me I should not use it???

Let's take a look at your printing with a 10x loupe, eh?

I would have thought you would critique the letter spacing, where perhaps you have some semblance of expertise. (I did it 20 years ago, in metal, and now my eye sees all kinds of potential for improvement.)


eliason's picture

Forgive me if I'm missing something obvious, but why did you print from a plate generated from a scan of a proof of the type instead of simply printing from the type itself?

peterf's picture

Hi @eliason
The Optima type is a very fine 36-point foundry metal acquired in the 1980s from an advertising typographer in Chicago. It has never been used for production printing.
In order to maintain the condition of the metal, I proofed it, much as it was used originally. My earlier (1990s) run on the Vandercook was a very limited edition.

Indeed, the Deepdene is even more fragile, if somewhat easier to replace, as it's soft Monotype metal, again not intended for production runs, and particularly not on rough paper with some depth of impression.

If I had easy access to hot-metal, then no problem to replace it after a few thousand impressions. But since the digital option exists, it is preferable.
Certainly the quality of the impression is perfectly acceptable in this context.

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