The occasion of the workshop was the previous evening's biennial lecture in memory of Victor and Carolyn Reading Hammer, fine printers who established the King Library Press. The lecture featured John Randle, publisher of the Whittington Press in Whittington, Cotswold, England, who brought many fabulous examples of his work. He also brought a number of beautiful original woodcuts by some of the artists who contributed to Whittington books. After a fascinating presentation during which we were able to handle and closely study examples, we lined up at several of the presses at King Library to to pull original prints for a portfolio keepsake. We ended up with a lovely collection of 5 woodcuts, plus a set of 10 notecards with envelopes.
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Title page and sample cut from our portfolio.
John Randle, Paul Holbrook (King Library Press), Jonathan Greene (Gnomon Press)
The spirit of Victor Hammer dominates the Press. This is a beautiful small wooden press built by Hammer.
An example of Hammer's work showing a two-color initial. The blue M is actually a seperate piece of metal that can be remove from the block, inked, and replaced in the block so both colors are printed in a single pull ensuring perfect registration.
One of the techniques that generated a lot of interest was pochoir (po-shwah). This was a set of finely cut mylar stencils which are used to create a had-painted watercolor effect. A rather painstaking technique.
My family has had a casual history with printing technologies for a very long time. In the late 1950's we inherited a small hand operated letterpress from my father's uncle. We used it primarily to print our annual Christmas cards, using both typographic and linocut designs. When my parents retired to Florida, the press went to an uncle near Milwaukee, but I made sure it was understood that I wanted it back some day and I eventually retrieved it and brought it to Kentucky. Eventually the 150 pound cast iron press became more burdensome than useful, so when I moved away for a time I sold it to a print artist I knew at the University of Kentucky. I then pretty much lost track of it, but I did know she had moved to Maine, so I figured it was either there with her or was being abused by art students in the Reynolds Building (a converted tobacco warehouse that is the home of UK's art studios). So what a delightful surprise as I was looking around the King Library Press to see our old press standing there proudly among those fine old machines! I've written a brief history of this press in our family.
I've always liked the curves and decoration on this press.
A selection of composing sticks. The one on the far left is our old stick.
As I was snooping around the bowels of the Press, I found the type cases that were built by my Uncle Lowell. The type has been emptied out - there was nothing special there.