And breath…

Time to pause and take stock. The press is clean, the table top is back on it, as we convert from press room to compositor’s station. All the type from the first sheet needs to be dissed, and the lines for the next pages set in preparation for the next assay into print. Said sheets lie interleaved, while the halftone I printed yesterday with rubber ink slowly absorbs into the paper. The sheet isn’t finished yet. I am waiting for an ISBN number before I can set and print the dedication page. But a big part of the project is finished. I’d say I’m about a third of the way through it.

Overall, I’m mostly pleased with the work. There are lessons learned the hard way, but we are on course.

To finish this off this round, I should talk about printing yesterday the practice block halftone. I knew going in it would be a challenge; printing the halftone of the ‘Uncut Block’ a day or two earlier on this rough Mi-Teintes paper was something of a rude slap, and at least it had a (somewhat) definable image. The reverse side of the ‘Practice Block’, an engraving of Abraham Lincoln, was printed on the press and is included in the portfolio, scratches, dings and all. The flip side is covered with scratches, test lines, some random engraved letters, one ghostly face on the right side, the date “1881” three time, no less, and the name “Geo. H. Weagant” who I now know was a Cornwall, Ontario dentist. This face was scanned at high resolution, sent to Owosso Graphics who in turn produced an excellent magnesium plate with a good screen. Printed on glossy paper, the image pops and looks exactly like it should. On any other paper, it looks a bit muddy. In the end, my mistake was threefold: 1) deciding to include the image in the book at all; 2) generating a halftone block of it; and 3) printing it on buff coloured course stock.

So for point one: why include it? Well, there is a semi-academic aspect to this job. I’m hoping that several New England institutions will take interest in this work, and I feel compelled to display evidence in the hopes that it will give some of my conjectures and speculations some teeth. This face of the block give a date (1881), and the name Weagant, and on the reverse, the engraver’s name “F. Archibald”. This could tie Archibald to Weagant, placing the collection in Eastern Canada or up-state New York at the end of the last century. It’s no proof, but enough to make an attribution, or even to make a speculation or two.

Point two: a courser line screen would have made printing easier, but the images more crude. In choosing to print the way I do, the term ‘crude’ is not one I want to be associated with.

Point three: as mentioned about, other than on glossy stock, printing halftone is a challenge. I chose the paper because the colour is beautiful, the weight and texture appealing, and it is also in my price range. The only other option would be to print the halftones separately on gloss, and tip them in. Well, ‘crude’ comes in many forms, and that might be one of them. I greatly prefer the results I achieved as opposed to this option.

In the end, these halftone are mere illustrations to various points, rather than the intent of the book, i.e. the wood engravings, which sit wrapped on my table patiently waiting for the completion of printing, to be installed in their new home. And while the labour involved was, to put it bluntly, ridiculous, the efforts were not wasted, and the results are good.

So, here they are, the results of the last couple of days printing.

First, a lead cut from the collection, attributed to ‘F. Archibald’, circa 1880. It printed far better than expected, better even than proofs taken (intended as printer’s proofs!) ages ago when I editioned the blocks.

Engraving cut from lead

And here’s a shot of the practice block one the press, lightly inked:

And in print:

Halftone off the press - from the 'Practice Block'

So, back to work.

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