Requirements: Each week we will have a small set of readings and/or viewings (available through youtube or other online sources). We will also have small writing activities (journals, self-evaluations, or reflections). And we will also have a series of class, group, and individual projects. When one of these modalities is not assigned or required, you will see the abbreviation “N/a” (“not applicable”) in the syllabus. There may be occasional reading quizzes, drawn directly from the handouts, readings, and/or films we watch.
Overview: In Week 1, we will get to know each other. We will also become familiar with the process and products of letterpress printing, through class discussion and a visit to Davidson College’s Rare Books Room. We will examine some historical and contemporary print-objects, and we will write brief reflections on those items. By the middle of the week, we will venture into the print-lab (Wall 148). We will be introduced to: setting metal type by hand, working with wood type, and press operation. By the end of the week, we will have printed one demonstration broadside (i.e. a large poster-style print), one class broadside using wood-type (topic: July 4), and one class broadside using metal type (topic: letterpress vocabulary)
In Week 2, we will discuss “expressive typography.” How is meaning conveyed through typography and typefaces? We will examine several examples on Monday, and for the remainder of the week, we will work in the print lab. The class will be divided into groups (either 4 or 5 members each), and each group will be assigned to a press. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be devoted to group work on those projects; by Friday, we expect to be finished and cleaning up for the next week. On Friday, we will also introduce topics for Week 3, which will involve making small booklets from single sheets of paper. Over the weekend, you will use copy-paper to make “dummies” of your booklets; these dummies will help you with the layout and design of your type.
In Week 3, we will begin in the lab, and work until Wednesday on your single-sheet booklets. On Thursday, we will begin to mount a small exhibition for the other members of the July Experience. That exhibition will be in the library, and will include examples of your work (i.e. at least one of each print we make during our time together); we may also choose to include some demonstration materials, such as equipment and type, if the class feels this is appropriate. On Friday of this last week, we will return to the print-lab for some final cleaning and a small celebration.
We will work hard; we will work fast; we will have fun! By the end of the three weeks, you will have had a relatively rare experience of printing by hand your words and the words of others. Moveable type is a technology that has existed relatively unchanged for more than 550 years; our presses and type here at Davidson come from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We hope to make beautiful, fun, and engaging prints, but we also hope to become more sensitive to the process by which text was produced and to the world of words and letters around us.
Lab Procedures: We will be working with early 20th century equipment and ca. 15th century technologies (metal type and printing inks). Your enrollment in this course will be taken as an agreement on your part to abide by the rules and procedures of the print-lab, which are in place to protect you and those around you, and to ensure that these one-of-a-kind artifacts remains in useful condition for those who come after you. These rules are simple:
- No eating in the lab. Water bottles with closed tops are allowed. If you need a snack (who doesn’t?), wash your hands, step out of the lab, and have a quick bite at one of the tables outside.
- No horseplay in the lab. Laughing is fine; we expect to have a fun time working together, but many things are heavy, inky, or both, so no horseplay.
- Wash hands often (before leaving the lab for any reason, and ideally before you have a drink or touch your face; this is common lab practice in the sciences, and we should adapt it here).
- Follow the advice of the instructor. We will debate aesthetics—what “looks good” is always subjective—but how to use and preserve the equipment is not up for debate.
- Respect the equipment. Don’t make a machine do what it doesn’t want to do, and take care with type and cuts.
- Clean up after yourself. This includes distributing your type at the end of the workshop. Your instructor will guide you in best practices regarding cleaning a press, but your type will be your responsibility. Some people can easily remember their typefaces, point-sizes, and leading; others can identify these on sight. If you’re neither of these types of people, feel free to leave yourself a note for future reference: “Andrew: this type is 36 pt. Trafton, set on a 30 pica lead.”
- At any point, if you have a question, ask.
- Have fun. If we follow 1 – 7, no. 8 will be easy.