The printing press’ new status

I have a friend whose grandfather owns a classic model car. It is a beautiful car.

According to Hugo (my friend’s grandfather) it looks and works exactly the same it used to forty-some years ago. So, it’s slow, it has no air conditioning system, no ipod input, no GPS, etc. The funny thing is that no one that looks Hugo riding his car thinks: “there goes an old, slow, expensive-to-maintain car”. Most of them will probably say: “There goes a beautiful classic car”.

Firefly is a letterpress printing shop based in Boston. They do mostly everything as it used to be done by Aldus Manutius 500 years ago. From lead melting to cover binding.

But why? We have offset printing, laser printing… forget about printing, we have ipads. For the same reasons Hugo keeps his 45 years old car: “It works, is a good car and it’s a classic, it’s a good way to remember people how cars used to be, to show where the great new cars come from”.

Lately, some printing shops have been returning to letterpress printing, some like Firefly, keeping as much as possible the fashions (technologically speaking) of the original Gutenberg letterpress, some others are changing the lead types for rubber types or doing other kind of technical improvements. Again, why? is letterpress better than the modern printing process or better than the retina display? No, but printing press nowadays seem to have a new status, it is not just a printing system anymore, is a real classic.

[vimeo width=”600″ height=”480″][/vimeo]

Film and narrative by Chuck Kraemer for the programme “At Large” of the WCVB, Channel 5 of Boston, MA.

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