The other day I came across a very worn book in the bins at the Goodwill Outlet. The pages had holes and it was bound by a leather string. Inside were words of inspiration by prominent writers of the time, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Emerson, and others.
Letterpress is a specialized kind of relief printing, in which ink is literally punched into paper leaving an indented impression of color. Back when letterpress was the chief process used in newsprint, for instance, this impression was avoided as much as possible because physical space was a commodity – a deep impression could render many square inches of printable space nearly useless. Since content-focused, large-scale print publications now use the much cheaper offset and digital print methods (if they use any print method at all), the so-called imperfections of letterpress are now more highly sought after by graphic designers, as many view this indentation as letterpress’ distinctive characteristic. Letterpress excels at type, line work, and patterns but not so much at photographic images or large fields of color (which can have a salty, mottled appearance)*. This gives letterpress a clean, simple, and modern aesthetic and makes it one of the only tactile methods of print – where one can not only appreciate the art with one’s eyes, but also with one’s hands.