The beauty of letterpress

And the joy of craft.

The nicest thing as anyone’s ever said about my work is ‘It’s always so suitable to the purpose.’ Yes, make it attractive, but make it be what the text needs it to be. Whereas in the wild and wooly world of computer typography, there are no rules. The old guys got it remarkably right. There was an intuitive understanding of what constituted readable text. And so you can be at home with letterpress.

— John Kristensen, Firefly Press

JK: “It will die, eventually. Because people will no longer remember how to do it.”

Interviewer: “How do you feel about that?”

JK: “It’s ok. I’m only responsible for my watch. I’m thankful every day… that I get to do this.”

Here’s the only link I could find about John Kristensen. Coincidentally, it appears to be the source of the video, and you can see a better-quality Quicktime version there. Here’s Firefly Press’ page on Briar Press (a letterpress community!).

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  1. webnician says:

    My parents have a fairly modern print shop, but, in the back, under a pile of other junk, is a 1912 letterpress that I have run for hundreds of hours. There are still certain things that only a letterpress can do. I’m a Web developer now, but I’ll forever be tied to it. It just has a personality of its own.

  2. Geoff says:

    thank you for this. thank you so much for finding this in the vast sea of time-sinks that is youtube. such a true gem.

  3. jen says:

    I’ve had the good fortune to do a couple of letterpress projects, and even spoken with John Kristensen. He referred me to the printer I use, Em Letterpress, in New Bedford, MA. They’re pretty much always slammed busy… but great work, spectacular people, and a wonderful dog.

  4. random8r says:

    I LOVE this. I used to be a graphic designer, in fact, and before that, a calligrapher, as a child.

    Before that, I was interested in codes when I was very young.

    What better platform to integrate all of this than programming for the web 🙂

    There’s something in this blog post of yours, and the video obviously as well, that reminds me of something.

    We spend an inordinate amount of time being "busy" and doing work at an increasingly rapid pace.

    The best work we do, however, is considered; it’s measured, and weighed, and each moment is appreciated as it happens.

    Thus, it’s "designed".

    Sometimes, I just simply love to get Illustrator and my Wacom out, and make fonts, or even just a pen and a page. There’s something wonderful about taking a pen to page or a stylus to a blank document that I’ll never stop finding wonderful.

    This is the source of how I’m still able to appreciate all the ages that I’ve ever been, as well. How one moment I can be 10 again, another I’m 20, and another I’m 30, and from there, abstract away into ages and states I’ve not yet been, or been in.

    This is sounding very wacky. Hehe…

    But, there’s something about Ruby that is very THIS-ness. It’s been crafted.

    It reminds me of doing Japanese calligraphy, or simply of writing letters to my mother when I was younger, appreciating the shapes my hand made as it moved across the paper.

    Those that have a connection to this moment – this infinite moment called Eternity, which strikes through "right now" as a single Chord must caretake it, and spread it in a sustained way – maintaining the flame of it, yet bringing it toward others who can also appreciate it.

    Some people show it as they speak, others show it in their work.

    Something to ponder: How can I take this moment I’m in now, and bring about some quality in my life?

    Each moment is as a blank sheet of paper, waiting for another attempt at our expressing the perfection of synthesizing these two apparently paradoxically intertwined things: eternity and history.

    … but when we do… oh, the beauty of the creations that are done almost "through" us.



  5. Shaal says:

    The video is not loading for me:@ The quick time version won’t work as well~ Well bookmarked for later~

  6. Mat says:

    This is great. But his mention of a "three dimensional quality" makes me think of dot matrix printers. 🙂

    Sometimes I really miss that sound.

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