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DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative

May 25, 2006

On the third day, I got to take a turn at the press.

Yesterday, on the way to class, I decided I was right about what I'd guessed below. It'd be much simpler to have both blocks of text built and ready once I got to the press, so that I wouldn't have to rebuild all the furniture in the bed. I'd also decided not to do the roman and italic lines in two completely different colors: the poem's lines are meant to be equally emphasized and I was afraid putting them in two different colors would over- or underemphasize one or the other set. As a compromise, I decided to use two shades of the same color, one dark for the roman, one a little lighter for the italics. The italics lines are the foundation or background to the poem and the roman lines are kind of superimposed on top, the way I as a female child felt my young life's narrative was being superimposed over the preexisting narratives of these other women. Roman type is always a little heavier looking--the letter shapes more substantial--while the italics feel slighter, a little more fluid or something, and more graceful. Two shades of the same color, I decided, would heighten the contrast between the typefaces, without disrupting the balance I was striving for between them.

So! When I got to class, I sat and started setting the roman lines of the poem. Pretty much everybody else was ready to print something, and some students were looking at printing a second pass on a piece, or even working on a second project. Not I. When Nancy came around to check on everybody, so she could make a press schedule for the day (there are 7 students and 4 presses) I'd just gotten started, told her what I'd decided, and said I didn't think I'd even get to the press today, since it took me most of yesterday to set the italics block.

However! Once I got my type case, composing stick and knee on the table and started to go to town, I found I was much faster than the day before. All that repetition of Tuesday had pretty much enabled me to reach for the appropriate letter without having to consult the map very often. I spelled one word, three words, a whole line without referring to it. It's very similar to learning typing. I sorted my 3-em spacers (the ones I'd had trouble finding on Tuesday) out in advance, so I had a pile of them to reach for between each word), and by lunch, I had only 6 lines of 17 left. (Except I was so absorbed in what I was doing, I forgot all about lunch, with consequences to be related later.) Nancy came round again (I was the only student at the typesetting table at this point) and I told her I would in fact be ready for some press time in a little bit. She said I could have the Vandercook Uni #4 (a Vandercook Universal flatbed press) as soon as the student who was currently on it was finished. [I haven't asked folks beyond Nancy if I can use their names here, so I am not, in case anybody feels funny about that.]

The student on Uni #4 finished up just as I was setting my final word: Nudity.

I'd love to tell you what happened next, about my time on the press. But I overslept a bit and have to get going. Suffice to say at this point, that I managed to print the roman lines of my broadside: 28 copies on Canson Lime in a custom mixed Pantone dark teal blue (16 pts. Process Blue + 6 pts. Black). [You can see the ink color on the practice proof above--click it for a bigger image--but the paper there is not the real deal. A swatch of Canson Lime is shown at left.] I'll be doing exactly the same thing today, for the italic lines, so those notes will explain the press set up, ink mixing, printing process, and how to clean the machine. I got more practice on the type case because I had to sort all of my roman lines back into the drawer before I left!

I may finish the broadside today. After I run the italics, I have to set and print the title and my name in yet another color (a totally different color), but it's going to be in a large display font and is just a few words. That shouldn't take long.

I told Nancy yesterday I could set type all day every day forever and be quite content. That's mostly true.


  • This is very cool, Shanna. Thank you for these posts.

    By Blogger Tom Beckett, at 5:48 PM  

  • hoo hoo, thanks. i finished my broadside today, but i am too tired to type about it. hopefully i'll be up early enough in the morning.

    i only have one more turn at the press, so my second project needs to be WAY less complicated. i'm thinking of letterpressing some cocktail napkins for a friend's housewarming as a surprise. and/or maybe making myself some all-purpose notecards. (if you've gotten mail from me, & you have, you've probably seen the last set...i got those printed up thru random house about a decade ago! but i'm almost out. i had several thousand.)

    By Blogger shanna, at 7:53 PM  

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