The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Type & Letterpress

Movable Type

A few years back when attending graphics classes at Walla Walla University, I happened to notice an old divided drawer of movable metal type from the age of manual typesetting. The type had no doubt been there for years, and looked to have seen little use. As I’m a bit of an enthusiast, I took note of the novelty at the time.

Now, years later, I’m back at my Alma Mater teaching graphics and web classes on a contract basis. My wife, knowing my love for all things printed, decided to follow the 1st-year paper theme when selecting my anniversary/Christmas gift, and bought me an Adana Eight-Five letterpress, shipped all the way from England. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

I set about ordering some appropriately rubber-based ink, and then started hunting for plates, cleaning supplies, paper, and type. Upon asking the chair of the Technology department I found that the drawer of type I remembered was unclaimed, and was even left relatively undisturbed! I asked if I could have the drawer—if no one had any particular objections, and a couple emails later I found myself rushing to the lab to see what I could find. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a drawer of type, but a whole cabinet.

Movable Type Boxes

I thought it unwise (and impractical) to attempt to take several drawers of type home with me after class—especially since I only asked for one—so I looked through several of the drawers and found six smaller boxes of type, each containing 100 pieces. Figuring that this would be enough to keep me busy, I departed with a small handful of type rather than a truck load.

When I arrived home, my dear wife helped me painstakingly sort out two of the boxes that were in a very disorganized state. Now I have type ready for blocking to be used on my letterpress, and I can’t wait to make it happen. Stay tuned for more, as I’ll surely be writing about the results of my attempts.

Filed under: creativity, generosity, opportunity, printing, process, type, typesetting