year: 2011


This fall I enrolled in a letterpress printing class. If you’ve ever hand-set type you know the trials of proofing and printing, and if not, trust me, there are many. It was recommended to hand proof each line, by line, as you set it in the “stick”. For unknown reasons someone had cut up the perfect size postcard paper and left them in the proofing bin. I used these to proof a little book I was working on for the final project. The book is based on a story that revolves around the news of the day, July 27, 1897, as published in the New York Times. The narrator is a fictional character who is in search of Guldensuppe’s head (but that’s a story for another day).

Now I had a whole collection of various lines of text on this lovely paper.

Also during this semester I worked on a broadside where I wanted to represent some sadness I felt regarding Robert Stroud. He is best known from the movie version of his life “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, but in fact, he never had any birds at Alcatraz. He was sent there in an effort to get rid of him and his birds from Leavenworth where they were tired of screening his intense correspondences with his publishers, as he had written two books on canaries while in prison, being self-taught in the care of these little birds.

So the feather rubber stamps were created in the hope that they would work on my press run, but no, this was not the best material to use, and so I had to recreate them in a linoleum block. What to do with my unused rubber stamps? Make a holiday card, of course.

So here I present on this card, for your entertainment, a brief summary in the trials of a novice letterpress printer.

The canary illustration is from an 18th Century book plate.

2 thoughts on “year: 2011

    Did you ever wonder where this expression comes from?

    Since at least the 17th century ‘sorts’ has been the name of the letters used by typographers:

    “The Letters… in every Box of the Case are… called Sorts in Printers and Founders Language; Thus a is a Sort, b is a Sort.”

    For a case of type to be ‘out of sorts’ would clearly be unwelcome to a typesetter. That terminology could be the source of the phrase and the notion is certainly a tempting one. (source:

    There is much debate to the truth of this explanation, but whether true or false it makes for an interesting story. A thanks for sharing the information to John Risseeuw.


    I highly recommend “Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars” by Paul Collins, not only if you are interested in crime novels, but more importantly if you are interested in the history of newspaper publishing. This book is packed with information about the battle of two media moguls, Hearst and Pulitzer. Here is the description from Random House:

    On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

    The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era’s most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio —a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor —all raced to solve the crime.

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