Surprised and a little alarmed to recently learn that a number of "fine press" (awful term) printers are using rubber-based inks. Some claim they achieve better results than with oil-based ink (hmmm), some admit they just like being able to leave the ink on the rollers for a few days.
Ink, as a contributing element to printing, probably doesn't get as much attention as it should. Wondering if our prejudice against rubber ink was warranted or not, we did some snooping around. Preliminary results tumbled us to Brian Donnell's excellent primer site on letterpress, which includes a short but insightful comment on oil vs rubber inks:
"Use oil-base inks for quality work. Rubber-base inks may print satisfactorily, but their drying properties make them suitable only for imprinting business forms, numbering, proofing, etc., and they do not dry on coated stock."
That's just an excerpt; the site offers more details. Coated stock isn't really a concern or issue at HM, but we wonder if the same drying problem would result on the highly sized paper we prefer for printing damp.
We'll be spending the rest of 2011 printing the third volume in the Hodgson/Cohen color series, Occupied By Colour. (The self-portrait above was taken while rolling out the ink for today's run, a page on the development of hair dyes.) But when we get a few days off, we're thinking of getting a can of rubber ink and doing some comparison printing. Be interesting to see how the rubber stuff works when printing damp... Meanwhile, we will reread Colin Bloy's A History of Printing Ink.