Robert Smyth Closing Reception

Date(s) - Sat. Aug. 12, 2023
2:00 pm


Thoughts on Letterpress Printing

The first time I remember seeing type being set was while watching the TV series Gunsmoke in the 1960s.  The printer was in the sheriff’s office and watched his apprentice setting type in their shop across the street and saw he was setting the word HELP over and over.  The skill of the printer and the apprentice told the story that saved the people being held captive in the print shop. 

Little did I know then that I would come to love how letterpress printing brings the story that a poem tells alive on the page.  The process embosses the text into the paper, filling it with a beauty that captures the eye and the heart.  It’s a physical process which requires the printer’s hands to handle the type whether as individual letters or lines of type cast from molten lead.  It requires a discerning eye to see where a point, a 72nd of an inch, or two makes the poem sing.  Colored ink is mixed by hand on the press and a piece of tissue paper correctly placed can deepen a color making it just right.

Letterpress printing requires collaboration between the printer and the client, sharing knowledge and trust to find the typeface that tells the poem’s story.  To ask questions and make mistakes deepens one’s grasp of the process. 

I do these broadsides to keep the beauty of this old school skill alive.

Robert B. Smyth

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