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stories 2016


Two projets from students at the Laboratory Press

Our research has led us to believe that our Harrild & Sons Albion iron handpress was purchased for the Laboratory Press at Carnegie Institute of Technology.

The 2016 APHA national conference to be held in October is entitled "The Black Art & Printers' Devils: The Magic, Mysticism, and Wonders of Printing History" and we've started thinking about making a proposal for a talk on The Laboratory Press. The more we find out about the press and the more people we talk to it seems that it tends to be vaguely known about by many fine press printers.

After our return from the Society of Typographic Arts Designers Weekend, at the suggestion of letterpress friend, Bill Roberts, we looked on eBay to see if any of the student work was online. Actually, about 25 pieces were. We picked 2 that we liked the most.

These pieces, called "projets" (pronounced in a French accent) were typc composition exercises designed by Porter Garnett, the head of the program when it started in 1922, and lasting until his retirement in 1935.

. . . A N . A C H I E V E M E N T . O F . T H E . F I R S T . I M P O R T A N C E .

Specimen No. 39, produced by Charles Wesley Prew and approved for printing in January 13, 1927, has a wonderful initial cap E with a nice tail piece built of dingbats.

Looking at the very careful handset, metal type composition, it is clear that a lot of effort has to go into the piece, most notably getting the final four lines to step in evenly to then match the tailpiece at the bottom.

If you look at the end of the second line of the text you'll see that there isn't any wordspacing after the comma after "Museum." This happens on several occasions. The very subtle indention of the first line up against the initial cap is also a nice touch.

The use of the dingbat in the title to help justify the headline is also quite nicely done.

We think it would be great if a couple of students would do a couple of these which we could print on the Laboratory Press Albion as companions to these. We bet, as was probably Porter Garnett's plan, that a student doing one of these would never look at type quite the same way again.

The double dot under the "o" is an interesting little touch.

. . . Y O U R . A F T E R S E L F : A . M E S S A G E . T O . Y O U N G . M E N .

Specimen No. 78, set by Harry H. Wisner in Goudy Newstyle, is a bit more open, but with a wonderful, calligraphic "Y." The credits say the initial cap it calligraphy by Wisner, but it is clearly printed via letterpress. The subtle rounded curve to the type at the bottom is in nice contrast to the bottom of the other piece.

. . . A D D I T I O N A L . T H O U G H T S

We like the openness of the calligraphic Y as it rams into the rest of the type. The Y followed by the "our" makes the letterform clearly understandable in its contex, but viewed separately I'm not sure if you would come up with it being a "Y."

We are arriving at this place just a bit too late to hope that anyone from back in the day would still be alive and could tell some of these stories first hand. To be 18 in 1928 means you would have been born around 1910 and would be 106 today. I would really love to be able to talk to a student from back then.