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Article Review: Before the Ink Dries: Keeping Letterpress Printing Alive



As a seasoned bookbinder and restorer, delving into Nicole Rivera's captivating article, "Before the Ink Dries: Keeping Letterpress Printing Alive," is a journey into the heart of a timeless craft. The narrative unfolds with Matthew Lamoureux, a passionate advocate for letterpress printing, leading us through the intricate dance of preserving a tradition that holds more than ink on paper; it cradles history, craftsmanship, and a community of ink-stained enthusiasts.


In a world dominated by digital efficiency, Lamoureux's tabletop printing press stands as a testament to the resilience of letterpress printing. Rivera's narrative guides us through the meticulous process, from selecting metal type to the rhythmic dance of the hand press. Lamoureux's Printery 918 in West Hartford, Connecticut, becomes a haven for this endangered art, with a touch of nostalgia lingering among antique treasures collected over the years.


The article explores the fading allure of letterpress, once a commercial printing powerhouse, now eclipsed by digital counterparts. Lamoureux's mission transcends nostalgia; it's a pledge to preserve a meticulous art that forces practitioners to pause and contemplate in our fast-paced world. The narrative beautifully captures the sensory experience—the hiss of ink, the chime of the tabletop machine, and Lamoureux's fingers conducting a symphony on the rollers.


Beyond Lamoureux's realm, Rivera introduces us to the broader letterpress community. From Dave Tribby's dedication in Sunnyvale, California, to the echoes of history in Yale's print shop, we witness a collective effort to keep the rhythmic heartbeat of letterpress alive. The looming fear of losing the few remaining experts and the tight-knit community adds a poignant layer to the tale.


Rivera's article skillfully balances technical details with the human touch, making it accessible to both novices and seasoned book enthusiasts. The vivid descriptions evoke a sensory experience, allowing readers to feel the weight of metal type and hear the rhythmic hum of the printing presses. Lamoureux's passion is contagious, and Rivera's storytelling captures the essence of a craft that transcends its functional purpose.


The inclusion of diverse voices, from hobbyist Dave Tribby to graduate student Jacob Romm, adds depth to the narrative. It transforms letterpress printing from a fading relic into a dynamic art form cherished by individuals weaving personal stories into the ink-stained fabric of history. The article doesn't just document a craft; it immerses readers in the world of letterpress, connecting the past with the present and offering a glimpse into its enduring relevance.



Nicole Rivera's "Before the Ink Dries" is a heartfelt ode to the art of letterpress printing. As a master bookbinder and restorer, I find solace in the meticulous preservation efforts and the vibrant community striving to keep the legacy alive. This article is not just a documentation of a craft—it's an invitation to experience the tactile beauty of letterpress and appreciate the passionate souls committed to ensuring its permanence in a world driven by fleeting digital impressions.

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