Poem Printing – Update!

While the volunteers marbled marvellously, I treadled away at the Minerva, finishing printing page four of the poem, and getting half of page five (the final poem page) completed: 1897838_10153187587707388_4871582711972063067_n 10639629_10153187587797388_6194433191681312170_n


The Marvels of Marble

You know it’s going to be an exciting day, when your workshop facilitator shows up with several litres of boiled seaweed/moss and a jar of ox bile!


Yes, this gloopy green substance (carrageen) forms the base of the ‘size’ used in marbling – the surface on which the paint rests, and from which we drew our marbled prints.

In this image, the volunteers carefully lay the page on the surface, before gently lifting it, and then rinsing it to reveal the wonderful colours underneath:


This part of the process required a complex mix of skill and luck. It was important not to let the liquid run onto the back of the print, as this formed the inside front cover of our booklet. At the same time, the ink needed to go right to the edges of the page.

Lifting the page up from the liquid and turning it over was always a moment of great revelation and joy. There were exclamations of sheer delight!


Some of the workshop volunteers expressed their joy by wearing the marbling materials:


The results were astonishing. We have more covers to marble tomorrow, and as the project progresses, but here are just some of the marvellous results:


Tomorrow, having replenished our supplies, we will marble with aplomb, and then try our hands at the processes involved in traditional book-making. We are ‘awl’ excited (see what I did there!).

Week Six

We’re really looking forward to week six of our project workshops at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This week, we will be learning the basics of marbling and binding, to give our poem booklet the traditional treatment, and to make sure it looks as close to the original as possible.

To guide us, Anna Fewster will be leading both days of workshops. On Tuesday we will be marbling, and on Wednesday, hand-binding some notebooks.

We’ll then be able to transfer these skills over to the actual poem booklet, with the volunteers hand-binding the edition in the traditional manner.

The project carries on apace, with pages 1-4 of the poem all but complete. This week, as well as marbling and binding, we hope to finish printing page 5 of the poem, and begin to run proofs of the poem title pages and end pages.

Project Symposium

At the end of October, we will be holding an open symposium to round up our project, to talk about what we have done, and hopefully to be able to show the final copies of the ‘Sissinghurst’ poem we have created.

Please drop us an email at: vicki@letterpressreimagined.com if you’d like any more information, or if you’d be interested in coming along.

Here is the poster advertising the event:

Symposium poster-2

Images from Week Four

Here are just a few more photos I found, showing our printing, proofing and checking joys, this week:

Here, Vicky spins the flywheel, under the watchful eyes of John and Peter:


The printing and inking dream-team:


Everyone checks one of the first prints for evenness and accuracy:


Later, we cheerfully checked more closely for accurate page registration:


Trip to Amberley Museum

This Thursday, our band of volunteers, plus some of our keen colleagues from the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICVWW) at Canterbury Christ Church University, embarked on an adventure to West Sussex, to visit the wonderful Print Workshop at Amberley Museum.

The idea of this trip, one of a couple we have planned as part of the project, was to give the volunteers a greater idea of how our Cropper Minerva printing platen fits into the wider story of letterpress printing.

Our second charge, as part of our Heritage Lottery Funding, concerns the recording and sharing of heritage. We are aware that the stories and experiences of these experts – in letterpress printing, in linotype, monotype and hot metal casting – rarely find audiences these days, yet they are so very important. The industrial past of our country, the contribution of these machines and these skills, stories of life as a printing apprentice and the like – these things should not be forgotten in our fast-paced, technological present.

So, as well as taking lots of photos and watching type being cast, we listened to and recorded some of the stories from those showing us round, and they will appear on this blog, soon.

The volunteers were able to see the evolution of the printing press, from the 15th century devices developed by Gutenberg, through to German motorised presses from the 1930s. It was fascinating to note the differences between flat-bed presses, cylinder presses, and free-standing jobbing platens.

We were also fortunate enough to be given a brilliant demonstration of a Linotype machine. Everyone marvelled as the machine operator tapped away on a large, multi-alphabet keyboard, causing a line of cast type to be emitted at the other end.

The expertise of the volunteers at the Print Workshop at Amberley Museum deserves recognition and accolade. It was a privilege to hear from them and to encounter their obvious passion for the craft. We are especially grateful to Peter and John, who showed us round, patiently answered our questions, and were very kind about our fledgling poem prints!

Here are some images from the trip:

This is a wooden Common Press, built at the museum according to the blueprints of these early presses:


Here, Gary expertly inks up the Columbian Eagle Press, in order to print some fun birthday wrapping paper:


We were very grateful to Peter for his stories, advice and expertise:



Here, the linotype machine is charging into action:


And last but not least, this is an Autovic platen from the 1930s. One of my favourites:


Hopefully there’ll be some more stories from our museum trip coming soon, so watch this space!