One theme or question that keeps re-emerging (for me) as I work on this book and daydream about others, is the question: why letterpress? What is it about that particular method of printing that makes it the best choice for the production of these books? How can the “best” choice be qualified/quantified? And as I work through this project (designing, proofreading, kerning, emailing, sweating over the paper cost, getting nervous about the cost of the film & plates) this question, “Why letterpress?” keeps coming back into my mind.
And if why letterpress, why use digital designs and photopolymer plates? Why not use lead type?
And, related: How does digital design translate into physical letterpress printing? Does the printing process influence the design (in a way beyond the limitations of the physical medium) or is the process of printing a mechanical-technical execution, a transparent rendering of a transparent design?
Why all this time and all this money on this process? Because it’s “nicer?” Because it’s “finer?” Because it’s more “expensive?” Because it’s “older?” If it is better, or even more appropriate for these projects, let’s figure out why.
A friend once commented that one thing she liked about the NewLights books is that “there was a reason for them to be letterpress.” She observed something that I want to be embedded in every book (and strung through the form-content-reception): a series of observations & reflections on, and experiments with, the chosen mode(s) of production. This series of “Production is Reception” is literally that. But these explorations must be enacted in the objects, and re-enacted every time a reader interacts with the books.
I think that an interesting way to address these “Production is Reception” posts for ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ is to look at the project specifically in terms of letterpress printing, of letterpress working with and against digital design. So we’ll probably flicker back and forth between exploratory posts on the “why” of this kind of printing and technical descriptions of the processes of working between the analog and the digital.