In our English 415: Editing Literary Magazines course, we’ve come to the much anticipated point of the semester where we create broadsides from block prints and excerpts from our own work. After the hard work of researching literary magazines, completing our editorial process and collecting all the pieces that will comprise the upcoming issue of Watershed Review, we’re feeling ready to switch gears. Here, Sarah Pape walks students through some examples from last semester.
Looking through various examples of letterpress broadsides, as well as “handmade” versions of peer’s work, English 415 students begin to think about choices they will make for their own. We consider the relationships between image, type, layout, paper, and color.
In English 415, we cover a lot of ground, reading about the history of literary publication, the social and artistic importance of those early efforts, as well as the present day innovators in online publication. To get a better sense of the machines and processes necessary to produce early literary publications, we headed to a local letterpress studio, Wild Ink Press, where they produce sundry paper products–from cards to coasters to art prints.
Upon arrival, Wild Ink’s pressman, Rik Pape, gave students a thorough overview of the parts and procedures involved in making a letterpress print. Here, he brings out examples of copper plates used for embossing.
Wild Ink’s main workhorses (besides their dedicated owners and staff) are the Heidelberg Windmill presses. Nicknamed “The Prince of Presses,” when this one kicked into gear, we stood back in awe of the precision and power behind the whirring mechanics.
Between ink color, locking the plate and calibrating for the exact imprint, Rik shows the class how little room for error there is when setting up a job. On this particular day, he was working on a custom Christmas card.
We were given a sample print to inspect, looking specifically at the high quality cotton paper and how the silver ink creates a opalescent effect.
We learned so much on our field trip to Wild Ink Press. Most notably, we left with a genuine sense of wonder and admiration for those early publishers of literary works, laboring over handset type and big iron presses to bring those voices we now take for granted into the world for the first time.
Though we will be working with hand-carved blocks, brayers and a typewriter for our foray into broadside prints, we hope to import some of the precision, intention and beauty that resides in the Wild Ink products we explored.
Thank you to Matt and Rebekah Tennis for allowing us to visit during their preparations for the opening of Wild Ink Press’ new studio/shop space. Thanks, too, to Rik Pape for the tour of inks, plates, type and presses.
Photos by Sylvia Bowersox and Sarah Pape.