Articles about Letterpress Printing History

When you preserve the past, you inform the future. Read and share articles on the people and machines that make up the rich history of letterpress printing.

Ottmar Merganthaler and the Linotype

Early Training Although Ottmar Mergenthaler was born in Hatchel, Germany in 1854 and received his early training as a watchmaker in Württemberg, his creative career started and flourished after he arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1872 at the age of eighteen. His first job could not have been more serendipitous: … Continue reading


In the letterpress market you will find products with varying depths of printing impression. On one end of the spectrum is the traditionally-favored “kiss impression,” in which the printer applied just enough pressure to the type or printing plate to give adequate ink coverage on the paper, but the resulting … Continue reading

Early Printer’s Tools

Tools, conceived in the mind and made by the hand, become an extension of both. Nothing is more basic to the development of any craft. The best sources of information about the earliest printing tools are fifteenth-, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century woodcut and engraved images of the printing operation. The earliest … Continue reading

Books on Letterpress Printing

Instructional Books about Printing Hard Copies Elementary Platen Presswork by Ralph W. Polk General Printing by Glen U. Cleeton, Charles W. Pitkin, and Raymond L. Cornwell A Guide to Experimental Letterpress Techniques by Barbara Tetenbaum Letterpress Now: A DIY Guide to New & Old Printing Methods by Jessica C. White … Continue reading

History of Job Printing

Job printing—a nineteenth-century term—is traditionally defined as printing that uses display type and no more than a sheet or two of paper. Short as that definition is, it encompasses a world of paper items—tickets, letterheads, notices, invoices, vouchers, coupons, cards, labels, posters, receipts, and timetables, to name only a very … Continue reading

History of the Platen Press

Earliest attempts in Britain The earliest attempt at making a treadle-operated press with a hinged platen was that of Daniel Treadwell (1791-1872.) Treadwell, an American living in England, devised a press and had the Scottish press builder David Napier to build it in 1821. It was made of wood, and … Continue reading