Frequently Asked Questions
What’s (an) interrobang‽
Probably not something you should name a business, primarily because no one can pronounce it, (say in-TARE-o-bang), and it needs to be spelled out. Be that as it may...
The interrobang is a punctuation mark designed in 1962 by NYC advertising typographer Martin Specter. It’s meant to be used for the exclamatory interrogative; “You named your press WHAT‽” You can read more about it here.
Do you print from plastic plates?
What you’ll find, if it matters to you, and you’ve been shopping the internet, is that the vast majority of “letterpress” printers out there do fake letterpress. What they do is plastic “platepress” (my term), though they’ll proudly argue until they’re blue in the face telling you they’re letterpress printers. They don’t own any type, and they won’t acknowledge the difference between the 450 year old tradition, and process and modern artifice they engage in.
They’ll happily charge you for something that doesn’t require the same knowledge, skills, or scarce materials to create. I don’t believe that's right.
That said, there will always be the need for plates for illustrative materials that print in conjunction with type. I have magnesium or copper relief cuts photoengraved as needed. Copper is superior to plastic or magnesium. It’s long-wearing and is archival, unlike either of those other materials.
Here's another angle to consider, and one people who know like to quote me on. Type Is Captured Energy. Unlike platepress that leaks energy from start to finish and then goes in the bin, type, and particularly foundry type, is made for the long-haul. Individual sorts of type lay in a case waiting to be combined with other sorts into words, paragraphs, and pages and printed along with ornament and other materials. When presswork is complete, the type is laid back in a case waiting to be used again. And again. In a very real sense, traditional letterpress is a green process.
Why does it matter?
Energy use matters, to many people anyway.
That consideration aside, in essence it’s akin to the artful difference between a photograph shot on film, and a digital image capture. A fine camera body, and an assortment of high quality lenses, filters, careful hand-metering, setting of shutter speed and f-stop, darkroom development, and printing on paper, vs. one made digitally and printed on an inkjet printer. While it may be a lovely image, a Giclée reproduction isn’t a photographic print. Similarly, it would be like a worker purporting to be a craftsperson, telling you they’re a letter cutter but you find they’re simply sandblasting the letterforms into stone. How about a virtuoso violin player who actually just calls up the sound of a Stradivarius violin on a synthesizer? The artifice they’re engaged in isn’t what you’re being told they’re doing.
Which is to say, I practice the genuine process. Letterpress, as the name implies, is a typographic medium. Pressing letters into paper. Many people claiming to do letterpress are making attractive, illustrative dents in paper with no interest in the tradition, skills, materials, and attention to detail required to do fine typographic letterpress. The idea of letterpress is trendy, and they’re selling deep dents in paper.
I’ve invested almost a quarter century building the business around a collection of newly cast, and vintage type and ornament. Much will never be made again. The type foundries that produced the types have been out of business for 30 to 50 years. You can count the sources for new type on one hand. Alongside wood engraving on boxwood, producing platinum photographic prints, genuine hand-set typographic letterpress is one of the more endangered craft processes currently being practiced. The makers of genuine letterpress foundry type, the basic element of the process for 560 years, have almost all disappeared because “platepress” printers have no need to buy type.
Beyond that, genuine letterpress “speaks in a language” based on those traditional materials, properly employed. Broad fields of solid color on uncoated paper? Not something letterpress is very good at. Photographic reproductions? Not what letterpress excels at.
Crisp type, and detailed line art on beautiful paper? Yes, that’s the look of letterpress.
I’m intrigued. Can I visit your shop?
Yes please, by appointment.
One of the ways I’ve made it work (if it does) has been by working from my home, and a workshop out back. I’m here most days working on something, and am always pleased to have visitors see how it’s done. With one of the larger type collections (over 700 fonts) in New England, my shop has been called a museum. This will allow the opportunity to discuss papers, and ink possibilities, discuss typefaces you’ve likely never seen before, see myriad samples of work, and the presses which are pretty cool indeed.
Is this your day job?
Yes it is.
After running the shop for 18 years in my spare time, in 2010 I left a well-paid gig as a designer, developer, and project manager at a web marketing firm I helped found in 1999. I continue to do freelance design, book design, some development, and IT contract work to keep the bills paid.
Do you work with other designers?
As designer, typographer, and pressman, this is my art, and I expect to have creative control over what I produce. Unlike other presses in operation, I’m not simply a pair of hands. I’ll collaborate with other designers contingent upon their understaning of the process, and willingness to work with the paradigm of traditional letterpress. If this is the case I encourage you to consult with me early in the process. This will ensure that your job can be realized via letterpress, with type and ornament in the collection, and on my equipment. If this isn’t acceptable, there are several shops in the area, and throughout the country who skillfully relief-print only from plates.
Will I see what it looks like before you print it??
Since my work is typically “Born Digital”, when design is in process, I'm able to email a .pdf which will provide a sense of type style and size. They tend to be quite accurate representations of the overall look of a piece. Of course the final printed piece will have the added physicality of fine papers and subtle impression of beautiful type and ornament that makes letterpress so desirable.
Do you have price lists?
Yes, for stationery, and wedding invitations.
I got tired of working up quotes only to have people disappear. That said, all the work I do is custom, so every job is different. I’m happy to develop quotes for any size job, be it something simple like a business card, to more involved projects like the music packaging, or full-blown wedding invitation suites with response cards, announcement cards, maps, programs, menus, place cards, etc.
What I can say about pricing is that in general, it’s going to be a minimum of $250/per run, plus design time, materials, shipping, etc. My cost is reasonable when considering the fee includes project management, design, hand- or machine typesetting, paper cutting and handling, presswork, finishing, and fulfillment. Local delivery is complimentary.
What’s your turn around time?
It depends on the project.
It’s best to speak to me earlier rather than later. With regard to wedding invitations, standard wisdom is that they mail 6 weeks prior to the ceremony. I’d like a month for the average invite package. For any type of work, it’s a minimum 3 week turn around, or the price is going to nudge up. There’s always work in the shop, so jobs are qued according to when they come in.
Do you accept credit cards for payment?
I use PayPal which means you can pay me by credit card over the web. Super convenient. You probably already have an account. We also have PayPal HERE mobile card reader, so I can swipe your card if you come to pick up your job.
What are your terms for payment?
I ask for 50% to begin work, and 50% upon completion and delivery.