Guest Post by Hindsvik: A Brief History of Letterpress

Hello again! It's Daniel and Valeria from Hindsvik Shop with our Tuesday guest post! For those that don't know, letterpress is a form of relief printing where the raised surface of text and images is inked and then pushed onto paper. Recently, letterpress printing has made a huge comeback in the craft and vintage community!

Before the printing press, the written word was the responsibility of the monasteries. Each book was written and illustrated by hand, highly inaccessible and very expensive to produce. Each block was carved by hand with every ideogram in position, which meant a completely new carved block for each page! This was the year 1 B.C.

In 1444 Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith and printer introduced modern book printing by inventing a mechanical moveable type and the printing press machine. It played a huge role in education, news and the Scientific Revolution. This was used widely until the second half of the 20th century.

Primitive printing blocks were made of woodcuts, photoengraved copper, linoleum blocks, magnesium plates and zinc metals.

During the 21st century, rotary presses were used for high-speed work like newspapers which sometimes required overnight production along with photopolymer plates.

Today letterpress survives in the form of small shops printing limited edition books, invitations or stationary which use both old and new printing techniques. It's fun not only using letterpress blocks, but collecting them for display too! Here's some of favourites we've come across:

Ideas for letterpress use include cards, invitations, gift wrap and of course, display! We hope you enjoyed our brief history of letterpress and we'll see you next Tuesday for more!

Photos from Typoretum, Wikipedia and Hindsvik Shop

Jan Halvarson


Rambles with Reese said...

I really enjoyed this post and watching the video on green girl press. I never knew much about letter press printing up until now.

Thanks so much for the "piccolo" history lesson.

Rambles with Reese

Unknown said...

Boy does this bring back fond memories of History of Art lectures when I was studying Graphic Design. Great post, concise, informative and visually interesting... 'B+' haha!

monkeyandsquirrel said...

i LOVE letterpress... i actually have a little letterpress necklace that i wear every single day :)

Iro - Ivy said...

Great informative and eye pleasing post. Thank's for sharing these details about letterpress ,as I aslo love it and have often been admiring your pieces on the shelves of yours to die for shop!

You guys are always an inspiration! Great to have met you through flickr.

Cranky Pressman said...

Good concise history of letterpress. You have some fabulous printer's cuts there. I particularly like the thumb tacks. One historical nitpick though (that is sort of what I do), I think you mean the 20th Century for mainstream use of rotary presses.

Katy said...

So cool! I love old printing blocks. That owl block is fantastic!