Common Press provided support to classes in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Weitzman School of Design remotely this Fall. How do you bring the highly tactile experience of letterpress printing to students from a distance? Here are some things that we did:
Poetry & Print Culture with Jane Robbins Mize: We mailed book binding kits to students in this English department course and met together online to learn to bind a book by hand. We talked about imposition (how to lay out pages correctly for binding) and looked at examples of independent publications created by collaboration over a distance.
Remote Tours and Demonstrations from the Press: Common Press hosted visits from multiple classes, streaming from our studio. We used multiple cameras to explore the contents of our 400 type drawers, walk students through the process of setting type by hand, and demonstrate the process of setting up a press for printing, and pulling a print. Featured presses include our 1850 iron hand press, our circa 1930 Chandler & Price platen press, and our 1963 Vandercook cylinder proof press. We talked about language we still use that comes from the print shop, how physical type setting and page design relates to contemporary digital design, and the political power of the press. We also looked at examples from Common Press's recent print archive. [Hosted courses include Book Design, Art of Protest (a critical writing course), and From Pixel to Print (a design class).]
History of the Book in South Asia with Megan Robb: This was a unique opportunity to work with non-English type. We started with a demonstration of typesetting and printing in English, supported by a 2D paper type setting kit. Then, we printed from wood type in the Devenagari script, as well as from copper and magnesium metal image-based cuts. Discussion included the unique challenges of setting Devenagari type, and how these challenges informed book history in South Asia.