I've always thought the small Vandercook proofing presses were cool. They are also completely redundant if you already have a handpress. Nonetheless, one has fallen into my lap. A lap that has no space for it, so what to be done? But it has been cleaned up, the tympan paper - which has been on since at least 1972! - replaced, and the spooky Masonic spirits chased away by a hound.


La Presse à Bras

Found a cool book recently while doing some work on the Griffo project at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Library: La Typographie, by Marcel Valotaire. Published in Paris in 1930, an edition of 1,050 copies. Loose sections in a chemise with ties. A description of letterpress printing on various presses, including the handpress, illustrated with 12 drawings and a suite of 35 fantastic photogravures. Beautiful French production typical of the period. A few copies online at reasonable prices.

I'm sharing just bits about the handpress, because this is HM.

I don't like the kind of roller shown here: the position of the handles makes it harder to balance and control the thing. And what's with the skinny roller? The Takach roller I use has a 4.75 inch diameter, with a roll-out of 15 inches - sufficient even for books as large as our recent Kelmscott/Doves project). Takach rollers are the best (use the harder 60-dur for printing type).

Putting the sheet (damp, hopefully) on the tympan. In the previous photo you can see the two points at the left and right of the makeready, on the tympan. In this photo the printer aligns the sheet, then pierces it with the points. These will be used to ensure registration when backing up. I don't do it quite this way. I've found that sometimes the points will slightly tear the damp paper when piercing it, rather than making a clean hole, and there goes your perfect registration. Instead I use a Mylar jig to make the holes in all the sheets with a pin (usually in batches of 2 or 3), just before I start printing. This ensures a close and consistent fit over the points even with several runs.

This isn't actually the most exciting picture; the bed being rolled into the press...

...the bar being pulled, and he's really working at it! Except for very large forms, just the fall (weight) of the platen is sufficient with HM's Ostrander-Seymour press. Which is great, except when you have to move the thing.

Found a couple of other press images in the library that day: the February 1953 issue of Printing & Graphic Arts had a short article about the history of printing in Canada, with two illustrations by Thoreau MacDonald. That didn't actually excite me that much, but I know he has his fans.


Details for the Francesco Griffo project are slowly coming into focus. As that continues, Will Rueter and I are poised to start production of his calligraphy book, titled Books Are My Utopia - Calligraphic Aphorisms Chosen by William Rueter. Details to follow.

Next month's post with be an interview with bookseller Phillip Pirages, about his just-published leaf-book Letters From the 15th Century.

Remind me to tell you about recent adventures in ordering books from Italy sometime...