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From its humble beginnings in China between 1041 and 1048, to its improvement in Europe by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450, the printing press has been a part of our civilization for almost 1,000 years. As technology has advanced, so has the print world, and throughout history, modifications were made to the original idea of evenly printing ink onto a substrate in a manner quicker than by hand. These advances resulted in many intricate and subtle changes over time to the process to improve everything, from portability to embossing to refining the technique. Letterpress is a very specific form of this printing, using a printing press and a form of relief printing where the design is locked in and inked, and the material being printed on is pressed against the typeset to transfer the ink. Letterpress printing is a beautiful, very raw form of art, where the physical act of pressing the “canvas” against the ink and design results in a myriad of different facets of the finished work. The pressure used can create a light, embossed look, or a thick, heavily inked tactile piece. The print medium used, onto which the ink has been transferred, can be soft like cloth, and soak up much more of the color, or paper of various bonds. Each type of substrate showcases different characteristics, and different results. Supplanted in the second half of the 20th century, the letterpress has enjoyed an artistic and artisanal rebound, as it is used in modern day for special and first editions of books, or stationary work. This resurgence is a direct link to not only our past, but also the beautiful hand crafted look that a true letterpress process showcases. The way the ink is printed allows a texture that you can feel to be present, and renders a wonderful work of art that cannot be duplicated by today's technologically superior printing processes. This “Small Press Movement” takes us back to a simpler time, when the final work was not only appreciated for the information that it conveyed, but how the information was presented. One such printing company, Essie Letterpress, located in Citrusdal, South Africa, has taken the idea and run with it, creating wonderfully majestic works of art, and a print that they refer to as “tactile and debossed.” The work conveys a feeling of history in each piece produced, and the idea that this was done by hand with every last detail in mind takes us back to the time when everything that was printed was produced exactly this way. It is a way to reconnect with our history, and it is very important that we remain attached to this history as we move forward in our technology driven world. Citrusdal, South Africa 24 TAE MAGAZINE

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