A Manual for Modern Fine Press Printers
By Paul Maravelas
New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2005
Hard back: ISBN: 158456167X Price: $39.95
Paper back: ISBN: 1 Price: $24.95
The editor of this magazine thinks there are some of you who not only read books but also entertain thoughts about printing them in your own home workshop. He is probably right. The urge to print sometimes erupts at a very young age and then is suppressed for years. There are past generations of boys who caught the printing bug from the famous Kelsey Press Co. of Meriden, Connecticut, where back in the good old days a kid could get an entire "printing outfit" for $8.85. Readers of FB&C are advised to aim for something better. If one is serious about it, a medium-sized platen press or, better yet, a Vandercook, is needed to produce any kind of respectable printing or bookwork.
For the amateur, there is a lot to learn, and Paul Maravelas's new handbook, Letterpress Printing, is a great place to start. Everything is covered, from the choice of presses and how to use them, type and typesetting, makeready, ink and inking, presswork, and much more. The information is simple, direct, and illustrated with nearly eighty line drawings. I expected the book to have too much technical detail for novices, but Maravelas, who has taught printing for years, doesn't overdo it, nor does he oversimplify.
I disagree with him regarding the dampening of paper, which I believe is desirable in certain instances. Maravelas says that "commercial" paper can't be dampened with good results. For close to half a century, I have printed Bird and Bull Press books damp on all kinds of paper, and my experience tells me that any paper can be successfully printed damp as long as it's not too wet. And I wish he had mentioned that unless you saw a second side-guide slot on the feedboard of a Vandercook press, you can't print in register on both sides of the sheet. I have seen many folks who have been printing on Vandercooks for years who haven't thought to do this, and you'll never do good book work if you don't.
These aren't serious flaws, but a reviewer has to have something to carp about. So I have carped. Taken all around, this is an excellent book with a mine of useful and reliable information. Don't try and print without it.