A Different “Type” of Nostalgia

After watching the movie at home, it seems to me that this is another form of the overarching nostalgia that people from previous generations typically seem to have. People yearn for the “old days” when people did more physical labor, did more with their hands, were exhausted by the end of the day but satisfied with their work. This kind of blue-collar thinking really shines through with letterpress. It’s a practice that has been outdated for decades, but still lingers around through the satisfaction of making something beautiful with your hands, and getting them dirty in the process. People find this to be more relaxing than making the same work on a computer or a phone, like they can leave their troubles behind and just focus on making something. I think that this sort of physicality over mentality approach appeals to small press publishers because it tracks more with what they’re about, getting the purity of the work, solely what the author intended, out to the people. It matches well with the creativity that comes with making one’s own type and manually carving it to life.

Because of this, I think that a future for letterpress exists through small press, but in poetry especially. Poetry tends to take up a lot less space, and requires much fewer words than, say, novels. So there’s a larger possibility to actually be able to be typed using letterpress. Not only that, but I think that the more people saw this, and knew the processes that went behind making it, the higher I think the demand would be for more. People like old ways of doing things. I think they would pay a lot of money for a book of poems made this way, just to own something that they can say so much work went into, especially by hand and through a process that is close to extinction. I think that it is very valuable to learn these sorts of methods that were employed by previous generations so that they don’t. These are methods that were pioneering at the time, that changed the game. I think that we should keep them around purely on that basis.

When it comes to heritage items, I would have to say that there are definitely some that would work much better if they were kept in use and some that work better kept properly in storage. Quilts I would say should be in storage, as that starts to fray and fall apart the longer that you use it. With printing presses though, it looks like, according to the film, that it would work better if kept in constant use. Overall, I’d have to say to use discretion when trying to figure out what kind of way to preserve historical pieces.

Letterpress Printing

3 thoughts on “A Different “Type” of Nostalgia”

  1. I agree with you one hundred percent, I think that if more people saw this film it would be more of a demand for it. I think some people would appreciate this process, that hasn’t seen the film. They would appreciate all the labor that went into printing something. I also believe that people would be willing to pay more for it. They would be willing to pay more because they understand the quality and the labor put into making it. This film made me appreciate the printing process and how far we’ve come.

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  2. Love the pun in your title. And yes, the blue-collar spirit of letterpress is so important – and it’s fascinating, really, especially as it feeds so seamlessly into the spaces of “high art” today: I mean, it seems no less “artisanal” for the fact that it’s now married to “book arts” and “literary art.” I want to unpack something else that you say, too: “I think that this sort of physicality over mentality approach appeals to small press publishers because it tracks more with what they’re about, getting the purity of the work, solely what the author intended, out to the people.” This dichotomy between “physical” and “intellectual” (cf. ‘object’ and ‘idea,’ too; ‘form’ and ‘content,’ too) is everywhere when we’re talking about books, and though it’s useful, it can be tricky to cleanly separate the two. The mechanical, physical nature of letterpress is no doubt in the spirit of small press publishing…but I’m interested in how that physicality might help the small press publisher get at the “purity of the work.” Is it the feeling of immediacy in saying: ‘I’m making this book with my bare hands, and now I’m physically putting it into an envelope and sending it to you”? I’ve always loved how I can order a book from a small press publisher and get an email back from the publisher, often a poet whom I admire. The idea of a real person making the work and then standing behind the work, and then passing it on? YES.

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  3. I am glad that you mention the creativity involved! I feel like it is easy to just choose a cool looking font on a digital document, but I feel like much more time and consideration is put into printed material from a letterpress, with much greater consideration of font choice, word choice, and spacing choice. More pride definitely results from something that the creator spent time putting together and there is more room for style development.

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