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Letterpress & digital typefaces

           See The Exhibition Online, And Order Your Catalog.

Folks: for many years we have been wrestling with the metal type vs.
photopolymer plate situation. We go after the best possible platemaking
and compare it to the best letterpress printing of metal types. This
happens with beginning students every year and advanced students honing
thier printing and platemaking skills. In the background is the idea
that someday real foundries may disappear altogether, except for a few
hobbyists. The dream is the possibility of a Macintosh sitting next to
an Orbital III platemaker sitting next to a Vandercook #4, and creating
incredible hand printed books with that mix.

Great strides have been made in digital founderies creating elegant
typefaces that can be translated to plates and printed letterpress. (I
look forward to trying out Gerry Lang's suggestion of the new ITC
Bodoni and ITC Founders Caslon.) So far though, I have to say, the end
product is less satisfying than metal types printed on the page. The
evenness of the digital "cutting" (and people are working on this), and
the absolute flatness of the plate (as opposed to the resilence of type
hitting paper), often lend a monotony to the printed type.

I am still hopeful that we will find faces that, when translated through
the platemaking process, have as much character and life as many metal
typefaces do. In the meantime we keep learning about and experimenting
with photopolymer, and use it as effectively as the medium allows.

When given the choice of using metal or printing from photopolymer
plates, many students still choose metal for its liveliness. So do I.
Betsy Cluff made some amazing books while here at Alabama probing this
very question.

Steve Miller
Associate Professor & Coordinator
MFA in the Book Arts Program
The University of Alabama
Box 870252
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0252
205.348.1525 voice, 205.348.3746 fax

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