MANY NAMES PRESS: DESIGN & LETTERPRESS
A letterpress arts and book design graphic arts studio houses a platen printing press called a Chandler
& Price Pilot, a cabinet of lead type, digital imaging machines
called an Apple Mac to make trade editions, fine papers, and, to conserve rare books,
some fine hand book binding equipment.
Many Names Press edits and produces books, composes hot type, creates
"camera ready" digital files for the printers, makes page layouts using
for bodies of text, letterpresses & prints
awards, poetry, chapbooks and broadsides, poetry books, and a myriad of
I have been a printer for over 30 years now, there isn't a lot I don't
know about presses and techniques - both letterpress and offset.
Consultations, expert editing and writing for all your printing,
self-publishing and bookmaking needs are available upon request.
Many Names Press writers and artists asked me to edit, produce and/or prepare their
manuscripts and I was very glad to do so. However, at this time, I
rarely accept unsolicited manuscripts to publish under the Many Names Press
imprint, so write for more information.
From Start to Finish
Many Names Press Produces Many Publications
PRINTING BOOK OF KNOW-HOW-LEDGE: HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY
1450 - Gutenberg (who may have learned it from the Chinese)
1860 - Platen Automatic Letterpresses
LETTERPRESS impresses the image, which is mounted in relief "type high" as polymer or metal engraving on a base, or as
foundry or monotype lead. Letterpress prints in relief, like a rubber stamp, from the reverse. Types of type and
Oldest: wooden type, lead type, Linotype or Intertype (the most moving
parts machine ever invented) slugs, wood and (more recently,) linoleum
- Metal (zinc, copper, magnesium, aluminum) photo-etched engravings, plastic photo-etched (polymer) engravings.
- Foil stamping (a type of embossing which uses mylar and a heated platen surface)
- Die embossing (with "male" and "female" counterdies)
- Die cutting, perforating and numbering are all done on a letterpress.
1817 - Stone Lithography
OFFSET PRESS LITHOGRAPHY is the most widely practiced form of printing
today. Lithos=stone (Greek) As in etching on marble or soft stone and
adding water over the surface and ink in the scratches. The offset
press maintains a fine balance between the oily ink and water. "Ink and
water don't mix" is the credo: a fine coating of water over the plate
repels ink and keeps the ink from expanding out of the etched area of
the plate, which wraps around the first cylinder. The image is offset
from one cylinder to another, then the paper is squeezed through the
second and third cylinder, "offsetting" the ink onto it. This is a
planographic process, where the image etched on the silver coated paper
or metal plate is sensitive to the ink and is a positive image.
Advantages: less electricity than a Xerox, these are the fastest
machines, they can do tight, exacting duplicates, in full color and
more, uses any size paper that the press handles, can use non-petroleum
( i.e. soy based) inks which can be mixed in any color. Always check
with a printer when you need printing, it may just be cheaper than
1906 - First Offset
1930's - Offset Perfected (W.W.II)
Use Aluminum Plates for highest resolution, with film negatives ("emulsion DOWN"). Long lasting and reusable, double sided.
Use Silvermaster Paper Plates for medium resolution but less
costs, made in a copy camera with built-in chemical developer baths.
Uses paper positives (Black image on white paper). For small presses
only, good up to 5000 copies, not intended for tight registration
(plate stretches). Very cheap, costing about a quarter as much as the
combined metal and film negatives.
Electrostatic Paper Plates: Low Resolution. Made in a fancy
copy machine from a paper positive. Not too many in use these days.
Cheap. Not good for more than 500 impressions.
1950's - Electrostatic Copying
PHOTOCOPIERS make copies by charging a powdered plastic and iron filing mixture
which moves across the paper and then fuses (melts) the plastic. Most copiers
use a fair amount of electricity. The corporations: IBM, Xerox, Kodak, all
get a "per copy" fee - something between a half to two cents each in commercial
lease fees. The resolution is 300 DPI. DPI = Dots Per Inch. This measurement
of resolution is NOT to be confused with halftone line screens used for
photographs and tint screens, which are: 85 line for copiers, 100 line for
silvermasters, and 150 line for metal plates using film negatives. Each
printer is different, so it is good to check with them first before you
run out your film or paper positives.
1980's - Digital Ink Jet
1990's - Laser, Direct-to-Plate
INK JETS squirt liquid plastic ink onto the paper direct from a computer.
Uses disposable (find a recycler!) plastic cartridges up quickly. Not
good for long runs. However, there are quality archival inks that won't
fade or run. Now most short-run books are made using computerized machines
that take a formatted (using layout programs like Quark or Indesign) disc
and spit out a book. I left a book out in the rain, and it held up pretty
well, the ink didn't bleed or fade in the sun. Ask for samples so you
can see if the spine looks well done - no goop or crackling when opening
the book. Always ask for recycled and archival paper. Off white (not yellow)
is easier on the eyes.
WHERE is it all going? I know for myself there is nothing like the tactile
look and feel of ink on paper, of offset and letterpress printing. As
we bombard our eyes and brains with the likes of screens emitting light
and plastic fuzzy lines, the more likely we are to appreciate the qualities
of printing. There seems to me nothing more lasting and impressive. By
continuing to use renewable resources like soy inks and vegetable solvents, renewable paper resources such as Kenaf, a fast growing bush from Egypt, hemp, cotton, and yes, even algae from the Venetian canals,
I hope we can continue to (and the earth can sustain) print without chopping
down more trees.