Monday, September 2, 2013
Letterpress Printing Projects: A Tiny Almanac
AAPA Member Dave Tribby tackles a fine project each year: a bound volume that he titles "Ink Cahoots", made up of diverse submissions by any club member who wants to take part. All he asks is that it be properly weighted - he will even handle the trimming.
He's been doing this since 1973 - this is the 40th year for it! I've been planning to send something for the 6 years that I have been a member, but never did until this year.
As my submission for Ink Cahoots, I set an Almanac for 2014, with a calendar, and a list of meteor showers and other celestial events. It is something I have wanted to try for a while. After all, Almanacs were a staple for printers all through history. When Gutenberg invented moveable type, he printed an almanac first, in 1457. The Holy Bible was Gutenberg's first lasting publication, but he had to make a living whilst working on setting and printing the Bible. Thus he set an example for printers everywhere from then on - one quick, non-political way to make a profit was to publish an almanac!
It was surprising how challenging it was to set. I have tiny calendar blocks for the months, so that section was easy enough. But I used 12 point type for the remainder, and the typeface I chose didn't have enough numbers to handle all those dates of full moons and such. This meant I had to borrow from similar sized "neighbors" (ie other typefaces). I should have just used my Kennerly 10 point (Kennerly is also a Goudy face), because there is lots of it. But I didn't think that far ahead. Lesson learned.
So now I have a goofy batch of numerals in my otherwise lovely and pristine Goudy "Californian" from M&H Typefoundry. Someday I am sure I will get around to moving the Kennerly threes and Caslon ones back into their proper places.
I am happy with the way the finished page turned out. I'm glad not to have to set an entire almanac by hand but this kind of dense work is good for my typesetting skills. Most of the time I just set cards or labels or mottos - minimal ephemera with larger type. Using these small point sizes is like learning touch typing - it forces me to remember the lay of the case instead of noticing each letter.
This is especially helpful when I go to "distribute" the type after the work is done. To "distribute" is to take the forme apart and put the type all away, each letter in its proper little cubby again. That is one of those jobs, like cleaning the kitchen, that is best done immediately.
Because type in a forme, just like dirty dishes, will outwait you every time.