The Beauty of Letterpress

One of my favorite things to study in publishing is typography, and its history. While most typography is done digitally these days, there is still some affection for the metal, grease, and ink of linotype and letterpress printing. Especially in the case of the latter, there has been a bit of a revival of the old standards of printing, with wedding invitations and small press books using letterpress to add a certain texture modern and offset printing can’t replicate.

While I’ve always wanted to have a hand at setting the letters myself, for the time being, I’ll have to count my pennies for the next local workshop and simply admire the craft from afar. In Japan, there was a letterpress right near the train station in my neighborhood, and sometimes I could see the manager inside setting the ink and plates into his massive machine. Part of me still wonders how different letterpress in kanji is compared to letterpress with Roman letters. My neighborhood was also the home of the temple with the oldest letterpress type kit in all of Japan, which I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon while exploring.

Japan, Kyoto- Ichijoji Area-89.jpg

If you’re curious how each of these “stamps” are made, the following short film might interest you. The level of detail, and the ability to imagine letter forms backwards is a pretty amazing feat! I can read upside down and backwards, but I don’t think I could ever do this…


…Finally, if you’re interested in maybe following a letterpress on social media, I recommend the Portuguese press below on Instagram. They always share interesting stuff!


How about the rest of you? Does letterpress interest you? What about calligraphy? Have you ever been able to use one of these machines? (Is it worth paying $189 to experience?!)

Source: Design Shack, “Getting Started With Letterpress”

3 thoughts on “The Beauty of Letterpress

  1. I used to love doing things similar to this, so it would have been something I’d like, also. Now, I can’t sit still that long. But, I have a great appreciation for people who do this type of work. Times change and people want ready-made stuff. Sad, but true. That man had extreme talent.

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  2. I loved it! I watched the whole thing and boy I wish I could work as his apprentice so this could be passed on to our generation. I am a calligraphy enthusiast and I also carve my own rubber stamps and both require skill and lots of practice, but I wonder how skilled you need to be to carve through metal. Great short film! Thanks for sharing!


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