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stories 2017


February 17, 2017 - middle school studio tour

On February 17, 2017, we enjoyed a 2-hour tour of an art instructor and 22 students in the 6th, 7th, & 8th grades from an Elkton, MD, middle school.

We divided the group into 2 groups. Tray and Ray each took a group for 2 topics, switched, and repeated.

Photos and a movie are shown below of the various experiences.

Tray covered

1) a hands-on demonstration of our Intertype C4 hot metal linecaster. The Intertype is always a show stopper in that it is working with hot type metal and it is probably the most intricate machine anyone ever gets to sit an operate on their own.

Above: this is a wide shot of our 1956 Intertype C4 linecaster.

Above: A closeup view of working with the keyboard. Depressing a key causes a small mould (called matrices or "mats") of the appropriate letterform to fall into place so that a line of type can be cast. You can see the bottom of the "magazine" holding the mats in the photo above this one.

The invention of these machines in Baltimore in 1886 caused an information explosion and the American newspaper that we know today by removing the need for hand-setting the individual pieces of type. Lead Graffiti has approximately 200 fonts. You have to have the mats for each size of the type you need.

Above: Changing the position of one of the mats (matrix or mould) to correct a typo.

2) printed the 2nd color on a full-sized reproduction of a page, set in movable metal type, of one of the early Gutenberg Bibles. It is an incredible experience to essentially see what Johannes Gutenberg would have seen, although with slightly more contempoary (1969) machinery.

Above: You can see the final printed sheet being returned to our young letterpress printer. A first color had been preprinted on the sheet to duplicate what had been done on the original by a calligrapher.

You can see the 2 columns of the text of the Bible page in the lower right of the photo. The black rollers are applying the ink as the cylinder rolls across the type, pressing the paper against the type to pick up the ink.

Ray covered

1) a talk about the origin of the written language along with an explanation of how letterpress works, showing some Lead Graffiti work, along with that of other contempory letterpress printers. One of the highlights of this part is to hold in your hands a piece of cuneiform from 2100 bc, written on by pressing a piece of river reed into wet clay. The photo below shows the piece of cuneiform and a larger image showing what it looks like close up. The piece is about 3 inches wide.

2) a chance to print a piece of handset metal type using our 1928 Albion iron handpress.

Below is a video you can watch seeing this happen.

Above: still working on eding down the video.

We would love to supply these kinds of experiences and were wondering if there might be a group of parents that would pay $250 for such a tour at the school of their children. I would so little problem doing this with groups from the 4th grade up. Good, hands-on history experiences.