Revival of the Letterpress

Letterpressing was developed in the mid-15th century and remained popular until the second half of the 20th century, when offset printing was invented. Not until recently has letterpress printing had a revival as an art form. The second video we watched today showed a women making a career from letterpressing, crafting mostly wedding invitations and formal business cards. Doing some research, however, I learned that the modern attraction to letterpress printing was just the opposite of what the technique used to try to accomplish. The goal of letterpressing used to be not to show any impressions and to “kiss” the paper as lightly as possible. This varies today in that now the goal is to have a distinct imprint so that it is evident letterpress printing is being utilized.

Does this difference in final outcome goals of the technique affect the authenticity of the revival of letterpress printing? This is similar to the artwork we looked at in class today as well. Does painting over an authentic piece of artwork make it less valuable? Technically it is the same piece of work, the difference being the subject valued or stressed.

One Reply to “Revival of the Letterpress”

  1. I think the preference for a visible imprint when letterpressing today comes from a difference in what we have valued about works created on the printing press in the two time periods, and not from any lack of authenticity. In fact, today we value the imprints left on the page because they prove the work to be authentic. They are physical proof that it was made on a press instead of a digital printer. This probably was not seen as desirable in the 15th century because they did not value printmaking as a vintage art form like we do, but rather saw it as the leading technology of the time and hence wanted it to look as perfect as possible. I don’t think that this difference in ideologies makes one attitude or style any more authentic than the other. We are using the same machines as have been used in the past with the same goal of creating art.

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