The Printed Word Endures
An eight-week introductory course in the book arts with a certificate. It is offered through the Virginia Arts of the Book Center, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The Center provides a classroom, gallery, and public-access printmaking studio providing instruction in letterpress printing, typography, book making, paper making, and associated arts.
The course was developed by Josef Beery, co-founder of the VABC, as an offering for undergraduate students at the University of Virginia and Sweet Briar College. The VABC now offers this course to all members of the community as well as college undergraduates.
The invention of writing and the book is the foundational accomplishment of human civilization. With these two tools cultural development proceeded exponentially as knowledge was easily disseminated and preserved. Writing and the book appeared in many forms around the world, but all shared the common features of accessibility and durability. Today’s information revolution is reinventing the way our culture stores and communicates knowledge.
As we experience these revolutionary changes, there is renewed interest in the technologies we have relied on for millennia with particular interest in printing and the codex book form. Examining the essential processes used in creating the book gives us an opportunity to better understand and evaluate the rapid changes introduced by digital technology.
The course is limited to between six and twelve persons. To bring to life lectures on writing, the book, printing, and typography; students will visit the University of Virginia Special Collections to view early and seminal artifacts. A hands-on session in printing on the replica wooden common press at the University’s Rare Book School will introduce students to the essential technology of printing’s last five centuries.
The course then moves to the type lab to learn the basics of hand typesetting using the collection of hundreds of cases of movable metal and wooden type at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center. Each student will be assigned a typeface to become familiar with over the ensuing weeks in the workshop. The student will hand set a specimen sheet of their typeface and lead discussion on its history and significance. After setting the type, the students will learn the operation of the Vandercook proof press and print a small edition of their specimen sheets, creating copies of a type book for all participants in the class to keep.
After completing the course [and redistributing their type!] all students receive a letterpress certificate with a unique woodcut as a keepsake of their participation.
This class has been sponsored by many different organizations and schools. If you are interested in hosting this class or taking the course at its next offering, please contact me.