We have conversations about the history of printing and type paired with how this gives insight to people today. What does the past still have to teach us? And what are we learning fresh today about things that happened 20, 50, 500 years ago? Each episode, new guests. Hosted by Glenn Fleishman.
A 19th Century 3D Printer
Electrotyping was the 3D printing of its day. An electro-chemical process that deposited dissolved copper or other metals onto a prepared object, it effectively allowed creating exact duplicates of a page of type to create a durable printing plate, or to produce a mold (a “matrix”) from type punches or existing pieces of type. This allowed foundries to expand typeface production dramatically, allowing far easier creation of the master forms from which matrices were made—and enabled piracy.
In this episode of the Tiny Typecast, there’s no interview—just me reading a chapter on electrotyping, “A 19th Century 3D Printer,” from my book Six Centuries of Type & Printing. I picked this chapter as I am currently raising funds related to electrotyping on Kickstarter: I have an active campaign through 18 November 2021 to underwrite creating a detailed digital 3D model of a Monotype Electro Display Matrix, a mold created by that company in the early part of the 20th century to allow rapid casting of metal type for handsetting. Rewards include the digital file, a 3D-printed matrix, and historic Monotype matrices. Six months after the digital file is delivered to backers, I’ll re-license it broadly and distribute it widely to help preserve cultural and technological knowledge.
Phil Abel and Nick Gill: Two UK Printers Across an Era
Phil Abel is a letterpress printer in London, who started his Hand and Eye Press in 1985 with a modest array of printing gear on the road towards his current set up with Heidelberg presses, and the ability to use both metal and wood type and produce modern photopolymer plates in house. He produces limited-edition fine-art books and we’ll talk about the album business.
Nick Gill worked for Phil, and eventually acquired his Monotype hot-metal casting gear to form Effra Press in North Yorkshire, England, where he and his wife are raising their children. Effra is one of the few remaining typefounders in the world. Nick trained at the Type Archive’s Monotype Hot-Metal Ltd operation, learning how to cut Monotype punches and matrices from Parminder Kumar Rajput, the only person ever learned all the jobs in the plant at the Monotype factory. Nick is also a musician, which we’ll get into how print and music meet in modern times.
Daniel Schneider, Industrial Archeologist
Daniel Schneider (Instagram: rustedrebar) is a letterpress printer with an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s in industrial archeology, a field I am dying to talk to him about. His research has centered on the transformation of nineteenth century artisanal skills within the context of industrialization. He is the Headquarters Manager for the Society for Industrial Archeology at the Michigan Technological University, which is where he earned his master’s.
We discussed his master’s work “excavating” the function of a wood-border stamping machine at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum and, more generally, how we retain and recover industrial knowledge to understand how things worked in the past. Daniel’s work considers the worker’s role in industrial production, considering the transition of work from craft to repetitive low-skill production.
Grendl Löfkvist, Printer, Calligrapher, and Educator
Grendl Löfkvist is a calligrapher, letterpress printer, and former offset press operator, and the education director at Letterform Archive in San Francisco, California. She teaches extensively, including at the City College of San Francisco, at the San Francisco Center for the Book, in the Type West postgraduate certificate program, and at typographic events all over. Her areas of expertise include the history of graphic design, book arts, typography, and letterpress.
This episode “sponsored” by Six Centuries of Type & Printing! Get a discount off your purchase of the book by listening to this episode’s introduction for a coupon code.
Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, Associate Curator in the Cary Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology
Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, the Associate Curator in the Cary Collection at the Rochester Institute of Technology, discusses the history of the collection, the nature of preserving the past, and the rapid development of printing—especially how quickly reproduction sped up—across the early part of the 19th century.
She’s held her position at RIT since 2009, and her time working with collection dates back a further decade. She’s an active artist and letterpress printer. She manages the Cary Collection’s extensive set of historical presses and type, which are used actively in teaching and research, and also lectures extensively printing history and practice. Amelia is the vice president of programs at the American Printing History Association.
Alix Christie, Author of Gutenberg’s Apprentice
Alix Christie wrote the book on Gutenberg. Her novel, Gutenberg’s Apprentice, puts us squarely in the milieu in which Gutenberg formed his studio, told through the eyes of his apprentice Peter Schöffer, also a historical figure. Alix’s non-fiction work includes reporting across decades as a domestic and foreign correspondent for a host of publications, including the Washington Post and the Guardian. She’s also a letterpress printer, who received her training in her youth from her grandfather, Lester Lloyd.
We talk about Gutenberg, the history and “invention” of printing, the Grabhorn Institute (the non-profit preserving Mackenzie & Harris Typefoundry and the Arion Press), learning letterpress as a youth, and much more.