Letterpress printing is a relief process that originated in the 1400’s and was the primary source of communication for more than 500 years. It works by having raised metal type to engrave and imprint words and designs on a page. Now that we don’t use the long process of the letterpress for our printing the letterpress allows artists to create work that have an appealing look that you won’t find on the computer which has offset and digital printing methods.
Individual letters were created to make words on the page. They started as wood blocks and then for better quality a man names Gutenberg began working with metal type.
The metal type has individual capital and lowercase letters, as well as punctuation symbols; these characters’ reverse impressions, which were like mirror images, were cast in steel. Letters and symbols would then be assembled on a wooden forme to create entire pages of text, complete with spacers and lead rules for legibility. In order to transfer these impressions from forme to page, Gutenberg used a lacquer-like ink he created himself out of soot, walnut oil and turpentine.
The ability to print became easier and faster.
Typeface designer, William Caslon created a type that was legible and distinct, which became popular for use in printing important documents. Later on Caslon’s typeface was used in the printing of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, which was sent out to all the states.
Individuals continued to find ways to improve the look of the printed page over the decades. In the 18th century, printer and typographer John Baskerville created a way to make paper whiter and smoother so that in printing, the ink showed up strong and crisp. He also was the pioneer for adding wide margins to the printed page, as well as spacing — or leading — between lines of text.