About the Shop
Letterpress.com was established in January 1995 under the moniker of Digital Letterpress and still operates in the same modest workspace on the east side of Austin, Texas, using a pair of trusty Heidelberg flatbed cylinder presses a Vandercook SP-20, an 1862 Hopkinson & Cope Albion handpress, an ancient Italian guillotine paper cutter, a sturdy photopolymer platemaker, and a compact type foundry consisting of a late-model English composition caster and two Thompson casters for making display type.
The name was intended as an ironic play on words because there is, in fact, very little that is “digital” about this work in the current sense save the use of pdf files to create the high-contrast graphic arts negatives used in making relief plates. In most respects the process remains fundamentally the same as in the 1950's, or the 1850's for that matter: an inked typographic surface transfers an image to paper under mechanical pressure.
Proprietor Bradley Hutchinson brings over 40 years of experience in letterpress printing and the allied book arts to the production of fine books and distinctive commercial printing, always with an eye towards quality, consistency and efficiency. “To make work better for its purpose than was commonly thought worthwhile” was the goal of D.B. Updike and his Merrymount Press, and a century later that understated objective still resonates at this printing office.
The woodcut that serves as our logo is adapted from an illustration found in Thomas Frognall Dibdin's Bibliographical Decameron, an eccentric ramble on books, printing history and bibliomania first printed in 1815, before the advent of photo-mechanical reproduction. For its many illustrations Dibdin hired a team of skilled engravers to replicate historic examples of early printing, among them this woodcut from a 15th century work on chiromancy—palm reading. This same device was recut by Mallette Dean for Lewis Allen's 1969 Printing With the Handpress, a book that came to the attention of a certain high school senior in Montgomery, Alabama, and set him off on a life's work in fine books and typography.