I’ve always admired and wished I could work with a handpress. I’ve seen beautiful examples; some, like this one in Antwerp’s Plantin Museum, dating back to 1600. They’re the kind first invented by Gutenberg, evolved from a wine press, with a way of sliding the work on a track under the platen where the downward force of screw or toggle makes an impression.
Last month I got a letter from Dennis Renault, who has printed on such a press for nearly fifty years, and had decided our shop would be a good new home for it. It meaning: an Ostrander Seymour 1200 lb. iron handpress. Dennis had taken such excellent care of it and was so generous with the price that I took him up on it.
After much effort , the press was disassembled, loaded & reassembled at the shop. With a week of study and tinkering, we were able to pull some good quality proofs. The beauty & power of the press coupled to an effortless quiet printing is sweet. And there’s something too about the directness of its action: it’s a press.
Now it’s the thing that wakes me up at 5am thinking about inking, & fretting about friskets. Or imagining what I should compose on it…every press imparts its own influences on a printer. Although this one was built in the 1890s, its motions, methods, and aura take one back 500 years.
The music of the shop just added a string bass.
Many thanks to Richard Burg, Paul Lewis & Tiana Krahn for the disassembly, loading & reassembly. And most of all to Dennis Renault… for giving us the opportunity and guidance throughout.