Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Letterpress Haven - The Briar Press

In our digital age when so much of what is printed simply spews out from large off-white plastic sided rectangle, it is fun to see how things used to be. The old metal presses have a grace and charm all their own, with the added benefit of users able to see all the moving parts.

Briar Press is a
place where you can see and learn a great about these wonderful machines, meet like minded folks, and maybe even find an old press for your very own - with the class to teach you how to use it.

Started in 1973 by Elizabeth Nevin, Briar Press grew out of her own interest and collection. With the added technical support supplied by her son, the site has grown to include a whole range of resources for all, from the mildly curious to the serious printer.

The part of the site that I first noticed was the Museum. It is a collection of images of many presses covering early hand-presses to proof presses to all other manner of print shop equipment. Over 200 presses are on display, and the images are quite well done.

The Cuts and Caps section is a collection or ornaments and initials, many from Nevin and old specimen books, but others from members of the site. The vast majority are free, but a number can be bought. Nevin also has a welcome section on how to take these digital images and create letterpress dies from them and included a list of companies that provide such service.

The Press Names section is an "international directory of private press names" and quite interesting. Each private press registered included info on the date of its founding, registration with Briar Press, the owner, address website, and profile (background and history). Some even include a small picture of their press or workshop. It was wonderful to see the number of presses registered, and the variety.

The Yellow Pages on the site are just what you'd think. A listing of business and services that would be of use to those interested in letterpress printing and private presses. With over 1000 entries, it is more complete than most. Just be aware that some of the older records may be a bit out of date. You may need to follow up with a google search.

The most useful pat of the site I think are the Discussions forums. Nevin has created quite a resource here, and the forums are both active and wide ranging. Some are quite technical, while others are good for the new visitor or new printer. One has to create a (free) account ot participate in discussions, but the content is available to the public.

Lastly, (and yes, I am talking about the sections out of their sequence) there is a Classified section. Personal ads are free, but I believe commercial ads do cost. The ads are not just buy and sell either - there are sections for workshops & events and for jobs & internships. While the more dedicated community of letterpress printers is small over 28,000 accounts have been created on the site, so the interest is far wider. Having the Classified also provides a way for the community to grow, and I think one of the best features of the entire site.

So go to the Briar Press. Bookmark it in your browser. Grab the computers of your friends and colleagues and book mark it for them too. You'll all learn something new and useful on every visit.

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