Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Itinerant Printer Revives a Printerly Tradition by Visiting the TBAS

Letterpress printer and book artist Chris Fritton turned the TBAS into his personal studio for a few days last week as part of his year-long project called “The Itinerant Printer.” Fritton is traveling the nation in part to renew the lost tradition of tramp printers—printers’ apprentices who left the Master Printer’s shop where they had learned the craft of printing to travel and see more of the world, finding work in other places and learning other printing techniques before opening their own print shops.

Taking advantage of Chris’s visit, two University of Tampa art classes stopped by the Studio to listen, watch, and print as they took part in informal presentations and demos. Chris explained the history of printing, showed the basic elements of letterpress printing and typecasting—having the students cast their own names on the Ludlow Typograph and print a class keepsake—as well as guiding them through his portfolio of prints and talking about his traveling “tramp printer” project.


Chris also set aside time to create and print some original letterpress works of his own. During his two-day visit, he designed, set up, and printed a three-color poster and two editions of two-color postcards to fulfill pledges that are part of his Indiegogo online fundraising campaign. Visitors were invited to stop by, talk with him, and see him at work during an Open Studio on Monday afternoon.

Chris officially began his Itinerant Printer tour, which is projected to take him to 48 states, the last week of January in the Miami area, making the Tampa Book Arts Studio only his third stop, following IS Projects (Ft. Lauderdale) and the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at FAU Libraries (Boca Raton). While in the West Central Florida area, Chris also visited the Letterpress and Book Arts Center at Ringling College in Sarasota and The Southern Letterpress in St. Petersburg before moving north to the Florida panhandle and Georgia.

More information about the Itinerant Printer project and a schedule of the tour can be found on the project website,

Thanks to Chris Fritton (The Itinerant Printer) for his visit, and to Ina Kaur,
Jono Vaughn, the UT Art Department, the Dept. of English and Writing, Writers at
the University, and the College of Arts and Letters for sponsoring The Itinerant Printer.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Celebration of Companion Old Style

The Tampa Book Arts Studio completed January 2015 by beginning its year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great American type-designer and printer Frederic Goudy—a party capped-off by casting type from the only surviving matrices for his unique Companion Old Style types. The event centered around a talk given by Richard Mathews, Director of the TBAS, who described the impetus for the creation of the face, its design, and the history of the use of the typeface. Mathews, drawing from a large volume of research, including materials from our own Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections, began by discussing Goudy’s early life and his development as a type designer, moving into a discussion of Goudy’s first types and into the commission Goudy accepted in 1927 to create a new typeface for the Woman's Home Companion magazine. Mathews pointed out unique elements of the typeface itself and discussed the face in context with Goudy’s other types and ornament designs. The talk ended with the story of how amateur printer and type enthusiast Les Feller discovered the Companion Monotype matrices during the liquidation of Monsen Typographers in Chicago, and how the Companion matrices found their home at the TBAS.

As part of the event, two films were played on a loop that could be viewed whenever convenient by those who attended.  The first was a 2014 video interview with Les Feller, describing his discovery and rescue of the Companion matrices (click on video at right to play). Paired with it was The Design to The Print by Frederic W. Goudy, a silent film from the 1930s that enables the viewer to look over the shoulder of Goudy as he shows his process for creating a new type, from first drawings, to engraving the matrices, to casting the type.


Following the talk, the crowd moved from the classroom into the Studio where there were opportunities to ask questions of the associates, learn more about Goudy, and to see a demonstration of typecasting from the original mats on a Monotype Sorts Caster, which produces individual pieces of type just as Goudy did in his foundry. Designs by Goudy, enlarged photographs of Fred and Bertha Goudy, and enlarged, signed proofs were displayed, together with items from the TBAS collections, including original copies of Goudy’s type publication Ars Typographica, original copies of Woman's Home Companion, and the first book to be set entirely in Companion, Water Colors, published in 1979 by Konglomerati Press. Notable items of the display were a grouping of facsimiles of Goudy’s first, dated proofs of three sizes of Companion (courtesy of the Cary Collection at RIT), photographs of Goudy's home and studio at Deepdene, and a printed sample of Companion known to be hand-set by Berthaoverlaid over a photo of her setting type in a composing stick.


Casting on our Monotype “Orphan Annie” Sorts Caster from the Companion matrices themselves, TBAS Associate Joshua Steward demonstrated how Goudy’s original engraved Companion mats would have been used to cast type for hand-setting and printing. The 36-point Companion Italic capital “G”s that were cast on the machine as part of the demonstration were handed out as small tokens to take home for those who attended.


At the Studio’s Vandercook 4 printing press, Richard Mathews assisted attendees to print their own keepsake designed for the occasion and handset in 36-point, 18-point, and 12-point Companion roman and italic types. The broadside included decorative Bruce Rogers ornaments also cast on the Monotype. The broadside design will serve as the basis for a more elaborate limited-edition keepsake for a portfolio of tributes being assembled by the Rochester Institute of Technology as part of their 150th Anniversary of Goudy.

Thanks to those who attended the event and special appreciation to
Rich Hopkins for his Monotype typecasting advice and support