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Students get printing with the Letterpress Collective

10 November 2015

SML students enrolled on the MA in Comparative Literatures and Cultures left Woodland Road for the afternoon and ventured into the city in order to take part in a printing workshop led by The Letterpress Collective. Students were able to experience first-hand practices which have remained largely unchanged since Gutenberg set up his presses in the mid-fifteenth century. The afternoon was led by Nick Hand, founder of The Letterpress Collective, who described some of the processes involved in printing with moveable type before giving students free reign to compose and print their own short texts using a wide range of different typefaces and either an Adana or a proofing press.

The workshop was designed as part of the MA unit, ‘Global Cultures of the Book’, which introduces the theory and methods of the history of the book through comparative case studies ranging from some of the first editions printed in Renaissance Italy through to contemporary graphic novels in Brazil. The opportunity to become practitioners for the afternoon was a powerful way of stimulating further reflection on classroom discussions concerning both theoretical perspectives and historical printing technologies.

Students were overwhelmingly positive about the experience:

‘It was very interesting to learn about the different stages involved in the printing process at the Letterpress Collective and then to have the opportunity to use the printing presses ourselves. It was a fun and unique experience and it was great to see everyone’s prints at the end!'

 ‘It is really interesting and meaningful to take part in printing as we already learned much about book history from textbooks. I used to think printing would be simple yet time-consuming, however, it turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined. The printing experience gave me deeper understanding of the book industry.’

 ‘Having my hands on the machine and ink really helped with my understanding and enriched the course contents with vivid real life experience. Learning about early printing could be distant and abstract. This class activity eliminates the distance and complements the class content perfectly.’

‘The printing workshop yesterday was fantastic and unforgettable. Though I have read books and watched documentaries about print, it still felt distant. I now know what printing really is. When I look at the books again, I can more easily understand the history of print.’

 ‘Given that the unit has often emphasised the importance of studying the book as a material object it was brilliant to get physically involved in some of the processes that make them. Aside from being very good fun, it really helped to concretize the printing process and flesh out its place in the communications circuit.’

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