Letterpress Printing Pictures

Letterpress printing is awesome.

Here’s my font of choice for this project…

The California Job case full of heavy, heavy lead type!

It took ages to set the type—but it was a lot of fun! It was really nice to just focus on finding the next letter.

Printing was a lot of fun too! It took me a little while to get the hang of it.

All locked up and ready to go!

And here’s the final result! It took a few tries, but I think they turned out pretty well!

I had to make a few changes…

Lovely words 🙂

For those of you interested, it’s a quote from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which is one of my all time favorite books. I skipped a bit in between the first line and the rest because I was running out of e’s! You never think about how many e’s are in a sentence until you can’t put them there anymore! It reads:

“What were the use of my creation if I were entirely contained here? If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn a mighty stranger”

Just realized I spelled entirely wrong! I’m more than useless without a spellcheck underlining my mistakes in red!


Burning lamps to be ever held in the hand

“You, O Books, are the golden vessels of the temple, the arms of the clerical militia with which the missiles of the most wicked are destroyed; fruitful olives, vines of Engaddi, fig trees knowing no sterility; burning lamps to be ever held in the hand.”
Richard Aungervyle

We take our books for granted. We take our information for granted. As a society, we’re so used to books and information being readily available that we forget that there was a time when it wasn’t that way. I’ll admit, I do it too, but this week I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about information and books, and realizing just how much I take it all for granted. When I want to know something I don’t even need computer! I press less than ten buttons on my iPod and the answer is at my fingertips in seconds. It’s a technological miracle that happens all around us every day! Let’s celebrate it, embrace it, and for once really think about it and be grateful for the time we live in.

Yesterday my Letterpress Printing class went to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library here. I got to see the of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible–again! This time around I learned that the copy the University of Illinois has is even more special. Gutenberg attempted to print 2 colors on a few pages of Genesis. Printing two colors on a printing press isn’t a very easy thing to do, and imagine doing it for the first time ever! Looking at the pages this time it really struck me just how monumental it was. Movable type! The ability to make copies quickly! I remember reading about it in school when I was a kid and thinking nothing of it, not even comprehending a world without an abundance of books. I still can’t really imagine it. I deal with books every day. I think about them constantly.

A few weeks ago I had a class on paper, another aspect of the modern world that I had completely taken for granted. We’re supposed to live in a “paperless world” but look around you, there is paper EVERYWHERE. Paper, like movable type, changed the rules of the game when it came to information. The two combined changed Western civilization forever, and here we are disregarding them and pretending they aren’t a vital part of our lives! Even those of you who don’t regularly read books can read, and I bet you learned on paper! After having that class I find myself paying more attention to the paper in my life. I like to touch it, examine it, and try to figure out which way the grain is going.

Today I spent three hours setting type for a letterpress print job. I don’t think I ever really had an appreciation of what goes in to making a book before. Yes, today there are much easier ways of printing a book and letterpress is mostly used for artists books or by people into the book arts. Even around the turn of the last century they had slightly easier ways of setting type. But for centuries they did it by hand. It takes a long time and it is a dirty job. The type is cleaned after every use, but the lead is still dirty! Handling the type at all gets you filthy! There’s ink under my fingernails still! The type is heavy and it isn’t arranged in alphabetical order. The order of the California Job Case isn’t alphabetical, but after a while it starts to make sense. The i’s are next to the t’s and f’s, and the infrequently used letters are off to the side in smaller enclosures. The letters, of course, are all backwards, so if you aren’t paying attention it’s easy to mix up your p’s and q’s (mind your p’s and q’s anyone?). I learned that the hard way when I tried to spell green and instead got greeu!

The Hazards of Type

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to form an opinion on e-books and whether I think physical books will soon be a thing of the past. I honestly don’t think physical books will disappear in my lifetime. Most people who grew up with books cannot bear to see them go and have such an emotional attachment to the tactile experience of reading a book that they could never fully switch over to e-books. The next generation, or perhaps the one after that, will not feel the same. Computers and the internet are taking over how we learn, how we communicate with the world, and how we entertain ourselves. E-Books are going to take over, it’s just a matter of time. But does it really matter if the form of the book changes? It will still be “a burning lamp to be ever held in the hand” whether it’s made of paper and ink or wires and plastic.

During the past few weeks I’ve been reading two books on my iPod. I started reading Lockpick Pornography by Joey Comeau which is not actually pornography, although some of it does get a little too graphic for my taste, hence, why I stopped reading. I’ve also been reading Wuthering Heights. I picked Ms. Bronte’s work because I’ve read it about 15 times before in physical form and it’s one of my all time favorites. I figured if I could read anything on a screen, that would be it. So far I’ve been enjoying the experience! It isn’t the same–at all–but it is very convenient. I walk to and from class every day and lugging around more books does not appeal to my back! My iPod however, is always with me and very light! While waiting for class to start I’ve been enjoying the convenience of it. I’m not willing to buy new books for my iPod, but I’ve already downloaded some of my other favorite (free) classics and I fully intend to keep them on there and use them frequently. I will never be without a book again!  I still haven’t tried a Kindle, Sony Reader, or any other e-reader, so I can’t have an opinion on them… perhaps they’re easier to use or more friendly.

Books are amazing. They are beautiful works of art, and the information they contain changes lives every day. I owe my entire lifestyle, my career choice, my education and almost all of the passions in my life to one simple invention: The book. So thanks Gutenberg and thanks all you librarians and book lovers throughout history!

The one where Emily gives you a lot of Youtube videos to watch

I guess you could say that I sometimes get kind of obsessed with things. Here are four songs that I’m currently kind of hooked on.

Supertime by Berndsen

Warning! Don’t watch this video if you’re easily freaked out by blood. There’s a lot of fake blood here.

Ok, so this is probably the weirdest and most disturbing music video I’ve ever seen.  If you haven’t watched it, watch it.

……. Done watching? Incredibly disturbing, isn’t it? This music video isn’t going to get out of your head any time soon. There is something so haunting about the faces of the dead (?) as they’re thrown around and played with like toys. Then there’s the bizarre move into fantasy with the guy on top of the car in the ringmaster’s costume. The more I watch this video the more I don’t get it, and the more I become infatuated with it.

The song itself is so catchy. After hearing it twice I couldn’t get it out of my head for a week.

What Would Captain Picard Do? by Hank Green

I first heard this song yesterday. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since, and I’ve probably listened to it 6 times. Lately I’ve realized just how much I really like Star Trek: The Next Generation. I haven’t seen nearly as much as I would like (that will change, dear readers, oh yes) but yesterday was Captain Picard Day which led to me watching lots of fan videos like this.

On a side note, watch some of Hank Green and his brother John Green’s videos. They’re hilarious. If you’ve ever identified yourself as a geek or nerd you will enjoy them.

Alligator Skin by Tilly and the Wall

I guess this is the most “normal” of the songs I’m currently obsessed with, and it’s also the one I’ve been hooked on the longest. It’s catchy and the lyrics are GOOD. Those of you who are my facebook friends may have noticed that my last two photo album titles come from this song. The video may not be the best (certainly it’s nowhere near as memorable as Supertime!) but it is a glorious celebration of the weird, and I am always a fan of that.

Is She Fiona? by The Gerbils

Unfortunately there isn’t a Youtube link for this one. I’ve been mildly obsessed with Are You Sleepy? by the Gerbils since Freshman year of college, but this one has just recently really caught my attention. I love the echoy fuzzy feel of it. I’m not very good at describing music, but the long and short of it is that you should go check the Gerbils out. Here’s one of my other favorites from the album.

Paperback repairs

After a long two days of Indexing class I opened my mailbox and was greeted with a marvelous gift: my next book club book! For those of you who don’t know, I belong to a book club called “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book”. Basically, we all pick a book that sounds silly, add commentary, and pass it on.  It is so much fun, and it always leads to laughter.

The book I got this month is “Mistress of the Morning Star.” From the looks of it, it will be hilarious. Although it looked hilarious, it didn’t look very pretty, or like it would hold up to the next four of us reading it! Book repair and preservation is one of my interests, so I decided to experiment and make a new cover.

As you can see the book doesn’t have a cover and the front pages are getting really torn up.

The pages are very yellow. Paperbacks turn yellow because the paper used is bad quality. Almost all paper is made from wood pulp. To break down and bleach the wood pulp paper mills use acid. When there is something in the paper itself that causes problem it is referred to as “inherent vice”.  In this case, the acid is the inherent vice. They can wash all the acid out before making the paper, but that takes time and money. Clearly this publisher didn’t care about the quality of the paper used, only his bottom line, and as a result the paper is now being eaten away by acid. There’s nothing that can be done to reverse this. There are some methods of stopping the acid, but they require equipment and chemicals that I don’t have!

This paper is pretty yellow, but it is still very usable. It isn’t too brittle, and it passes the double fold test. The pages are still tightly glued to the spine, and as far as I can tell none are falling out! You’ll see a lot of old paperbacks in this condition… Eventually it will probably fall apart, but for now having a cover should protect it enough for my bookclub’s purposes.

On to the cover-making! There are certainly better tools to use, but being poor/cheap I went the route of supplies from Walmart. I got a pad of 90lb watercolor paper that is acid free. Most papers these days are acid free–when the acid-free craze hit a while back many mills converted their equipment. Of course, when working on anything you want to be sure to keep it is always important to make sure it is actually acid free. To make sure, it will either be marked “acid free” or there will be an infinity symbol inside a circle. The watercolor paper I got is clearly marked acid free and is nice and sturdy.

Glue is another important tool in a project like this. There are bookbinding glues that you can buy online or at a supplier, but like I said me=poor so I did a little research and found that Elmer’s Rubber Cement is acid free (and also quick cheap and easy to find!) So far it seems to be holding up well.

To make the cover I used some the skills I learned while volunteering last semester at the Preservation and Conversation lab on campus. I never dealt with paperbacks, but I did repair a lot of spines on hardcover books and make a lot of tuxedo boxes (used to store books that are too far gone to be properly repaired)

I cut the paper down to the height of the book. After that I used the spare strip as something of a ruler. I marked width and thickness of the book, and then transferred those marks on to my cover paper.

Once those marks were transferred over I folded the paper where the marks were. I left the back flap on to be used as bookmark or just as a protective flap over some of those ratty pages! I put rubber cement on the spine of the book and the spine or the paper and glued them together. I pressed them tightly together with rubber bands until it was dry.

Like I said, it seems to be holding up pretty well at the moment. There are a lot of things I could have done differently/better if I had bothered to get the right tools, but I think for the time/money I spent on this project it turned out pretty well! Hopefully it will hold up to the abuses of the Sisterhood!

Yes, it is misspelled. Our book club is filled pretty much about being silly, so I tried to make the new cover of the book reflect that. I’m hoping the other members will add their own hilarious touches to the cover as the book gets passed around!

I think this is a sign that I’ve been spending too much time learning about indexing.

The first quote is actually on the title page of the book. The second one by “me” is actually from a Whitest Kids U Know sketch.

I’m hoping to repair more books in the future, perhaps with better tools and more skill! I’m taking a class on bookbinding in the fall and I imagine that will help me out with projects like this!


For the last few months I’ve been thinking of starting a year long photo project, but I’ve never gotten around to starting. Well no more! I start today! I found a great website community of people who do it and I’ve joined! I’ll be uploading a picture for every day (not necessarily on every day) and I’m hoping to take a picture every day that really captures what is going on in my life. I want this to be something I can look back on and remember my time in Illinois, and the year in general.

For those of you interested in seeing my project go here: http://365project.org/emilykathleen/365

My youngest sister Lily is also doing one. If you want to see her project go here: http://365project.org/stammo/365