Letterpress Rules OK
My father was a printer. And he was all letterpress. He would have used machines like this Original Heidelberg, although his two were probably older.
Letterpress printing with movable type is one of the classic technologies that was invented in the Middle Ages by Johannes Gutenberg.
I spent most of my childhood in that printing works in Wood Green. I used to set the type for all sorts of letterheads, posters and brochures, but perhaps my biggest claim to fame, is that I used to do all of the handbills for the Dunlop tennis tournaments, that were held all over the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Sadly, I do not have one of those handbills. If anybody has one, I’d love a photocopy.
I also learned to read and write with poster letters. These are of course backwards and you’d think that it would have caused me to have some sort of reading and writing problem. I suppose it may be one of the reasons for my atrocious handwriting in that I learned that printing, computers or typing is much better from an early age, but it did give me a strong mental alacrity in turning images through 180 degrees.
My father also had one of the oldest proofing presses, I’ve ever seen, but sadly there are no images of it.
This one is from about 1850 and was at least fifty years younger than my father’s. His probably ended up in a scrapyard, when a museum would have been a better bet. Printing museums are rather thin on the ground and there isn’t even one in Heidelberg! Although I did find a whole section in one in Belarus.
My father’s letterpress business died.
Offset litho technology was coming in and because of the bizarre purchase tax system in operation in the 1950s and 1960s, it was cheaper for companies to do their own printing. Tax on plain paper was zero, but if it was printed it was 66%, so work it out for yourself. VAT would have solved the problem.
But now letterpress is coming back and like the printer who provided the pictures in this note, it is doing well.
There is nothing like the feel of a properly printed card or letterhead! And you can do so many clever things with a proper printing machine, like score, number, decolate and perforate.