Thomas Jefferson once wrote:
"I have sworn upon
an altar of God, eternal hostility
against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
A nation cannot be both ignorant and free."
Free expression in print advances education
and thereby enhances freedom for all people. Use your local
libraries, presses and independent bookstores.
SUPPORT THE FREE PRESS ~ THINK FREE ~ READ
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LETTERPRESS. . . .
The Minerva "Cropper"appeared around 1867. Like the
"Alligator" before it, these platens (also called "clamshells")
were no doubt named for their voracious consumption of fingers
and hands! By 1898, the Gordon Challenge, precursor of the Chandler
&Price, with its movable chase where the rollers are mounted,
vastly deterred the appendage-eating aspect of the previous letterpresses.
Modern newspapers and copy shops replaced these aesthetically
pleasing machines with the high-speed technology of offset printing
developed between the world wars. Today, the remaining letterpresses
are used by specialty printers for die cutting and foil stamping,
in third world countries, and by artisans and hobby printers.
Letterpress printing these days can only be learned by an elder
craftsperson, by old texts and trade manuals, and by the hands-on
process. I learned mostly hands on. And I learned when to have
my hands off!
AND WHY I CAME BY MANY NAMES PRESS
My love of gears and levers began as a child. Each summer, my parents loaded us five girls into our massive station wagon
and secured our bicycles on top. With my Hercules 3-speed English touring bike, we'd escape muggy Virginia for Long Island,
New York, where our grandparents lived above their motor shop in the middle of the town. I would wake up every morning
and go down into the concrete den full of tools, smells of oil, detergent, and sea salt. My big Grandpa would call me over
with that distinct accent of his:
"Hea, hammahed, lets get deese geahs in ohda on that old bike
of yuhs..." and out would come the crescent wrenches, screwdrivers,
vicegrips, etc., etc.
Many years later, I was one of the first women undergraduates
allowed in to Jefferson's all-male University of Virginia. They
had to let women in because otherwise affirmative action laws
would prevent them from receiving federal money, I was lucky,
both my smarter older sisters couldn't go there. My job was shelving
British literature in the stacks. In the basement of the library,
behind a square of chain-link fence, stood the University printing
press. It was an immaculate Chandler & Price platen press, exactly
the model I owned until recently. I used to get goosebumps every
time I passed that magnificent, dark, lonely enigma. How did it
work? What made it tick? Not simple like a bicycle. . . .
AND HOW I CAME BY MANY NAMES PRESS....
Some twenty years ago, I set up shop in a cabin at a farm I lived on in the northernmost
part of California. I had the Ama Press then. The structure is still
there, propped up by a redwood tree, keeping it from sliding into
the slough. I was always trading for and upgrading my presses. Jack
Hitt (alas, rest in peace my friend and fellow book lover) and I
went to Oregon and a ghost town called Golden and picked up a broken
platen and a Multilith offset off an old commune about to be repossessed.
I found the original owners of the equipment and sent them some
money, then I traded for a Davidson offset and so on. I still have
some of that original foundry type in cases.
I moved to the Monterey Bay area in an effort to keep abreast of the printing world. I really was a tramp printer,
working in several different shops, picking up skills one could never learn in school. I had many names for my own press
I kept on the side, and in light of this, in 1992 I began my own business called Many Names Press, named this because
I couldn't decide on any one name. It suits my desire to maintain a Pantheist's view of the earth and maintain its
The Letterpress Chappel of Santa Cruz is here; an internationally
renown group of designers, printers, fine hand bookbinders and
papermakers operating letterpresses which utilize lead type, photo-etched
and wood engravings. After the Bookshop Santa Cruz building was
destroyed in the 1989 earthquake, owner Neal Coonerty bought my
old Gordon Challenge, so enabling me to buy an even bigger, better
press for my shop.
Maintaining an ecological approach, I began to print on an old
offset press using soy inks and recycled papers, in a garage in
Capitola in February of 1993. Wearing multiple hats, I printed
200,000 mailing pieces for "Belles Lettres" and Janet
Mullaney, who started the feminist magazine. A Readers' Digest
designer sent me the artwork. I would pretend to be the owner,
then the graphic artist, then the printer, all rolled into one.
Her phone calls to me were downright hilarious.
Quickly needing more space for 2 Hamadas, a platemaker and a
bindery, I moved to a big ice storage facility. There was so much
room that many art happenings and shows became very popular with
the cultured set. I rented out the unused space to artists I knew.
I bought and sold the letterpress equipment people unloaded on
me (must’ve thought I needed it). I printed a book with full-color
plates (loved the registration on those presses!) for my uncle
Bill. Eventually, the compressor and freeway noise gave way to
a foray into the action of downtown Soquel, again associating
with artists and art galleries in the area. I printed books for
postern the quiet, sunny bucolic orchard I call home I kept the
platen and a 20x24 flatbed Asbern letterpress and several cabinets
of type I used frequently. I printed the fine press book "The
Woodcuts of Andrea
Rich" there, as well as many a chap book and broadside.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and I took up the
computer to edit and layout books for my clients. This was a new,
and very exciting tack into the book publishing world. I took
courses in Photoshop and Illustrator, and with the help of books
and the three year stint as a production artist at West Marine,
I became very proficient at Quark and other handy applications.
In the summer of 2001 I sold the offset equipment and concentrated
on the letterpress and computer. In 2004 I traded in the big behemoth
letterpresses for a sweet little pilot 6x9 platen and bookbinding
equipment. I enjoy teaching letterpress, and my bookbinding teacher
Constance Hunter and I often trade skills.
After a brief prelude as a graphic artist for first a fine art
collector, then a printshop and finally a local newspaper, I realized
I hated sitting down all day. I became a schoolbus driver for 15 years and drove a 25 year
old, double-clutch 78-passenger Crown about 150 miles a day, picking
up about 250 kids, who I have to say, are much more interesting
and cooperative than adults are sometimes. With biodiesel - I
am honored to have helped start the ball rolling on biodiesel
in the schoolbuses - and new technology for efficiency and filtering,
we are really reducing carbon emissions while using a renewable,
safer fuel. Parents should know that schoolbus drivers as a group
are the safest drivers on the road today and should consider letting
their children ride the schoolbus whenever possible! The gas wasted
by each parent driving a kid to school is about 10 times the amount
I recently moved to Humboldt County,
CA to do my write and make art with my letterpress printing and
publishing, I am today in a fortunate position indeed.
- Please go to services now, for more information on printing for your business or publication.
- Please go to books, for a descriptive list of publications available from
Many Names Press for sale.