Long & Short of It

One reason HM has traditionally not published much poetry is that it's harder to print pages with big variations in line lengths than it is to print justified text. The physics of inking with a handroller, and how pressure is distributed over a platen, combine to make the longest lines print heavier, so you have to spend a lot of time fussing with makeready and adjusting the ink bearers to get everything evened out. Most of Harold's poems have quite short lines, but then he likes to throw in at least one really long one on every page. It makes designing a page to accommodate this variation, and then printing it interesting challenges.

A lot of people who have tuned into this blog specifically because of Aurora Teardrops aren't familiar with letterpress printing, & even if they are, they probably aren't familiar with the unique aspects of using a handpress (vs something like a Vandercook or Heidelberg press where inking, and sometimes even feeding the paper, is automated). So, here's a quick overview...

As explained in this post, I always finish a run the same day it starts. The drawings by Harold that appear in Aurora Teardrops were printed before I started the text, so a run means one side of a sheet (two pages). Once the text for a spread is set up in the press, I spend a couple of hours pulling proofs and making adjustments to the ink, makeready (shown below) and roller bearers.

Aurora Teardrops is being printed on paper that is dampened prior to printing (see here for details). This makes it more receptive to ink, meaning less impression and less ink are required, yielding sharper letterforms compared to printing dry (this is why it's such a waste when people don't dampen traditional Western handmade papers when printing).

After the type has been inked, the sheets is placed on the tympan, using the register pins...

...the frisket is lowered to hold the sheet in place...

...the tympan is lowered over the type, the bed rolled in, and an impression is pulled:

Repeat one hundred times. For Aurora Teardrops I print off the Golden Hind sheets for the regular copies first (60 sheets), then the T.H. Saunders for the deluxe copies (40 sheets). A good days lasts seven hours; anything over nine hours is a bad day (& there have been a few). Just over a third of the way through at this point.

I'll soon be sending the first newsletter e-mail out to those who requested a copy. It will include more details, including the prices and a pre-publication discount offer.