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Week 4 February 6, 2020

February 6 Week Four:  Historical Narrative #1 the social revolution of the printing press

  1. James Mosley “Technologies of Print” from The Book: A Global History (PDF in Google Drive / Readings / February 6)

2. Elizabeth L. Eisenstein “Introduction” from The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. (PDF in Google Drive)

3. Roger Chartier “The Printing Revolution: A Reappraisal” from Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein edited by Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin all are available on JSTOR (also available as PDF in Google Drive / 701-801/ Readings/ February 6 2020)

4a. Revival of medieval printing with William Morris “The Ideal Book” and 4b. “Printing”  with the Kelmscott Press with

5. DG Rossetti illustrated Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (1862) PDF of Rossetti’s long poem published as a book located in Google Drive / 701-801/ Readings/ February 6 2020)

6. Johanna Drucker “What is Digital Materiality?” PDF from What Is? Nine Epistemological Essays. Cuneiform Press (good for discussion of medieval or medievalist printing revival, typography) PDF in our google drive folder

Textual Practice: Letterpress Printing with Jordan and HTML with Emma

Letterpress Presentation Abstract
In order to look at many different aspects of the letterpress, the presentation begins with the invention of the letterpress, the types of texts printed, typesetting, and linotype. The linotype is mentioned in order to make a connection to the technique of the letterpress and how linotype may have contributed to the falling of the letterpress, as eventually people were less focused on the craft of the letterpress and began to worry more about the technology and production of works. I also review some of the letterpress typefaces in which Morris mentioned in “The Ideal Book,” noting how he mentioned that the Mentelin type was of beautiful simplicity, but some of the other typefaces he mentioned seem to be more readable and pleasing to the eye, in which he was arguing for. One point I make during this part of the presentation is that some of the other texts he mentioned that were not “perfect” in his view, Caxton and Blackletter, seem to be more pleasing and clean to the eye – this is something I would like to hear others’ opinions on. Moving on from typeface, the presentation gets into the printing process, specifically showing how type was set. This was a crucial part to the letterpress, as printers had to hand assemble all aspects of the page in which the reader sees from the printed page – another aspect of the craft. Then I discuss the limitations the letterpress had, including the time and effort it took for printers to replace a damaged letter or to reset the type due to an error not seen until after the printing was done. The limitations to the letterpress instilled this aspect that the materials had some form of power over the printer. The letterpress could also only print in one color at a time, so in order to print anything on the page that was in color, the printer would have to reset the machine and then reprint on the already printed page – another element that demanded time and effort from the printer. The next sections include an analysis of the letterpress’ influence on society, readers, and authors. In this, I examine how the letterpress was fundamental to Barthe’s death of the author and to the way in which people learned and retained information. I touch on the career that the letterpress created, giving jobs to men and women who had to master the craft and was regarded as an honorary job. The letterpress also influenced the way people learned and recorded information – being as things were now printed and easily accessible, less had to be memorized and the previous hierarchy that controlled society – i.e. the orators had the power, usually the elite or people of the church – was beginning to disassemble. Towards the end, I include a short description of how today’s laser jet printer works, in order to compare it to the letterpress and analyze its influence. To conclude, I discuss the fall and revival of the letterpress and the ways in which the vintage technology is still used today, and has become a rare and cherished writing technology, due to the “bite” in which was undesired in its prime time, but ended up saving the technology.

Works Cited
Adam Savage’s tested. (2012, Dec 8). Tested learns the craft of letterpress printing [Video]. Youtube.
Banff centre for arts and creativity. (2015, Aug 7). How-to: Use a letterpress [Video]. Youtube.
Beckloff, E., Quinn, E., Grazioli, K., & Vella, J., (Producers). (2018). Pressing on: The letterpress film. [Video file]. Retrieved from
Carabi, A. (2017) The deliberate art of brand orientation In Writing. Retrieved from
The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2013). Letterpress Printing. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2013). Linotype Machine. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2013). Relief Printing. Encyclopaedia Britannica. editors. (2018). Printing press In History. A & E television networks.
Letterpress Commons. (2012). Boxcar Press. Retrieved from
Letterpress U: The bite that saved letterpress.
Library of Congress Bible collection: The Gutenberg Bible. The Library of Congress. Retreived from
Library of Congress Bible collection: The Mentelin Bible. The Library of Congress. Retrieved from

Lithographic offset press, Rubel. (n.d.). National Museum of American History Behring Center. Retrieved from
Momma’s sauce. Retrieved from
Museum of Printing. Retrieved from
My Fonts. Retrieved from
The Print Guide. (2017). Letterpress In The print guide.
Strizver, Ilene. (2012). Typetalk: Type tips for letterpress printing In Creative Pro. Creative Pro Network. Retrieved from
Treadwell, S. M., Jr. (2015). Advancing the sustainability of letterpress print production in the 21st century (Order No. 1598128). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1718188110). Retrieved from
Walter press’ rotary press. (2011). Expositions. National Diet Library. Retrieved from
Woodford, C. (2020). Laser printers In Explain That Stuff. Retrieved from