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blogs i <3: Moveable Type

snurched from type-truck.org, forgive me...

I found this blog only a month or so ago, long past when the type truck was in my area. But I have been enjoying the delayed posts of the trip… let me explain a little, and I’ll try to do this as much from memory as I can. There’s this lady, see (who I am in love with from afar) who is driving a big panel truck all around the country. There’s a printing press stuffed in the back, and a whole bunch of type and offset printing stuff (I am completely ignorant in these areas, my terminology will be poorly chosen). Anyway, she got the funding for this crazy trip by setting up a kickstarter project, and she has been visiting her supporters and such along the way, hosting printing demonstrations from the back of the truck! She has profiled a number of amazingly innovative and creative print studios that she has visited along her way; a community that I did not know existed, but I now long to be a part of… ahh, longing and attachment how we struggle with eachother…

snurched from type-truck.org, forgive me...

Back to the point…. it’s a neat read, check it out. And someday I hope to intersect paths with the type truck, and the amazing type lady….

This all got me to thinking about printing, and typesetting and bookmaking, what history I am aware of, and what the future might hold. I remember reading an article once about a startup project. it was a printed book vending machine. The idea was, you would insert money (credit, coupon codes, whatever) and selet a classic book that you would like to own (or a new book, I can’t remember). Then you would select what level of printing you would like. A small archival version, with a hard board binding? Or a recycleable softcover pulp version, perhaps with slightly larger than normal print, and extra wide margins for notetaking. The main thing I remember about the article, was that the whole thing fell apart because they couldn’t find a glue, suitable for binding, that would stay hot in the machine, and workeable on an as needed basis. What a waste of ingenuity!!!! I love this idea. I know there are issues with publishers, authors etc, but the IDEA is fantastic. I wonder why it never caught on (oh, wait, publishers, distributers etc.)?

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So this started me thinking down another line, one that I have been musing over lately seeing as we are entering the “age of the web of interconnected things” or whatever (read Cory Doctorow, digest, then return here). And a thought struck me, what about 3-d printed offset printing? it’s a bit meta, but bear with me. Using a 3d printing setup, you could “print” or typeset an entire page, or multiple pages in a single printing. depending on how good a quality inking you can get from 3d printed materials (and how many prints you could get from each) this could be a quick and easy way for small time publishers, and niche bookbinders to get into the market of small scale artisinal book making….
You could print twenty-page drums like old mimeomachines, novels could be printed by hand in a run of mere days, by a single person. you could 3d print the entire press, designed from scratch…

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And then, what is the point of it all, is there interest out there in this kind of thing? Or are we all just going to be reading the news and our favorite novels and watching spacesoaps off of little screens printed on the inside of our eyelids… and be perfectly happy never to touch a real object again????

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But there is something fascinating about printing things in this way, with ink applied to a negative relief pressed to a paper medium of some kind. A little while ago I experimented a bit with it myself. i finally put scratch awl to soapstone and carved something into this little chinese seal that I have had for years and never known what to do with.

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I chose a drawing done by a friend of mine, and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself. It’s crude, compared to the original, which was a fine line pen sketch, but it turned out pretty good; only looking moderately like it was scrawled in crayon. In any case, the experience was fun, playing with positive and negative space, and slowly forming a picture by removing material. I will probably try my hand at some more of this, I have some tools for linoleum relief in a box somewhere I think. I learned another, more personal lesson too, and it is this: that one must never hold on too tightly to the intention behind a piece of art… a viewer makes their own interpretation, and it is seldom what you expect, often not what you would like….

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