Printing Press ≠ A Dying Art form

The documentary Pressing On: The Letterpress Film reflects on the seemingly dying art of letter pressing and the letter press itself. Various people, both young and old express their love and passion for pressing and share the amount of letter presses they’ve either come to collect since the beginning of their letter pressing journeys to describing their love for the letter press and what it provides for them on an emotional and physical level. These people with a passion for letter pressing also share the most important piece of information about letter pressing that is mostly lost among major companies and businesses today – letter pressing is not just a hobby, it is a true form of art.

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What I’ve learned from watching this film is that art is the main concept that is associated with letter pressing. They may appear to be dying among major publishing firms nowadays, but that does not make pressing a dying art at all. Presses are very much alive in how they move and operate, almost like a dance being performed on a stage. Every little scrap of lettering and metal parts that go into letter pressing is purposeful and meticulous and important. Letter pieces that are dropped are not typically replaced, because their dents and fractures are usually beloved by consumers who witness or purchase pieces coming from letter presses.

I found this particularly fascinating, because if a piece of machinery is somehow broken within a big established printing company the parts are most likely going to be fixed as soon as possible. Those who work with old-fashioned printing presses understand that perfection isn’t the main focus for what they’re doing; it’s trying to create art that requires physical action and a great deal of heart and dedication. There are no easy ways to create great art from a letter press. There are no buttons are fancy beep noises that alert you when the final piece is ready to transferred elsewhere. A human hand is needed every step of the way in order to establish pieces that fancy machinery can’t do better. The letter press may be dead to large companies, but it most certainly is not a dying art form.

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film

1 thought on “Printing Press ≠ A Dying Art form”

  1. I like that you note how everything will not always be perfect in a letterpress. One thing I thought of while reading this is how big of a deal a misprint can be on a Pokemon Card or in a book, where the price of such a misprint can be exceptionally higher than the regular piece. With the letterpress, everything is kind of like a misprint, with each piece having its own little quirks and making each piece of different value in the eyes of the consumer.


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