Hatch Show Print’s motto is: “Preservation Through Use.” When they say this they are talking specifically about their collection of historic type & image blocks. They “preserve” those physical things by continuing to use them and keeping the iconic images that they produced circulating in the culture. The idea of “preservation through use” is an oxymoron—using those blocks is not going to preserve them. That use is going to destroy them.
Generally speaking, when it comes to Book Arts & letterpress printing, I am against preservation. Not that I want to see all of our lovely tools, equipment & materials burned & scrapped. Quite the opposite, actually. I am against preservation in the sense that something that needs to be “preserved” is something that has died, that is in the process of rapid decay. The preservation impulse in Book Arts, while noble & in some ways worthwhile, is holding it back.
Letterpress printing, hand bookbinding, small/private press publishing, etc., etc. are commercially obsolete. That does not mean they are “dead”—historically over, sealed shut, capable of no further development in aesthetics and/or technology. The Economy is not the only economy. These things—these techniques, tools, equipment, processes, materials, ways of doing-learning-moving—are living things. & there is, terrifyingly, excitingly, more work to be done.
The Vista Sans Wood Type Project gets at several very important things:
1) It literally advances the technology of type production & letterpress printing. There is now a typeface that was never available as type, in lead or wood, in the world in physical form. And the type is different from traditional wood type—some of it has a very visible grain. It is not so precious anymore—it can be kerned, mortised, cut, spliced without worry. It points toward even more possibilities.
2) The project is not just about the type, it’s also about its utility & function. The functional/shareable is the new relational.
3) The project is not just about the type, it’s also about how it’s used to advance the aesthetic range of letterpress printing. You can see lots of the prints in the video above. Very few of them look like a “traditional” letterpress broadside. & that points to one very, very important thing about letterpress printing—it’s an extremely flexible & adaptable medium. The pinnacle of its aesthetic achievement was not/is not black, serifed text type on white or off-white paper.
4) The project is not just about the type, it’s about community, about this community of incredible people making incredible things.
Things like the Vista Sans Wood Type Project are absolutely crucial to keeping the fields of book arts, printing, typography, design, publishing, etc., etc. moving & interesting & fun. Tricia & Ashley have already made the type, but now they need some funds to make a book documenting the project—a book that will take the project even further. Please consider helping them out by following the link at the end of the video or by clicking here.