I’ll admit it, I’m a type junkie. I have been for a long time, and there is no 12 step program to cure me of this affliction. It’s part of being a graphic designer, and someone who has spent the better part of his adult life playing with, using and building with typography to create something new and unique.
This morning when I was out on the Hamilton Wood Type Museum website (yes there is a museum dedicated to wood typography) I came across a book for sale that will be going into my reference stack asap.
“Alphabets of Wood. Luigi Melchiori and the history of Italian wood type” is the most recent addition to the latest wave of books dedicated to the history of wood type used in printing presses before digital, and before metal type became the standards of the day. It is also the first book to seriously look at the historical and cultural significance of Italian wood type manufacturers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“This book sprung from an encounter with the life and work of Luigi Melchiori, a skilled craftman who lived and worked during the late ninteenth and early twentieth centuries in Crespano del Grappa – a small community at the foothills of the Alps in the Veneto Region. It is a tribute to a maker of alphabets of wood. The authors, James Clough and Chiara Scattolin, develop a private and professional artist’s profile, the history of the wood type and its progressive use in typography. The archive “Luigi Melchiori” is part of Tipoteca Italiana’s collections.”
Back in the day, when I was in art school… I just made myself sound really old… anyway, I took quite a few printmaking classes. I was really into the process of Lithography and intaglio printmaking. There was a solid satisfaction in the creation process and the slowness in which an image was produced.
At one point I discovered letter press and I had an instant connection to it. In part it came from the fact that I was working part time as a designer and paste up artist to help pay for school. I think the connection between the typesetting component, and the printing process is what brought it all together for me.
The video below by Leo Cackett was produced for Anthony Burrill for Wallpaper* magazine. It features Derek Stonham, and Ian Foster producing a wood type printed piece for the cover of the 2012 May issue of the magazine. At one point in the voice over by Foster, he talks about working with antique machinery and type. This is so true. The press is probably over 100 years old, as well as the wood type they are using. I love the fact that there is a dedicated group of people all over the world that are keeping this craft alive. It really rings true with me after spending 10 hours in front of a computer screen working in Photoshop and Illustrator.