- Department: English and Related Literature
- Module co-ordinator: Mr. Nick Gill
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: M
- Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
This module gives you a hands-on introduction to the techniques and history of letterpress printing, from its European roots in the 15th century, right up to contemporary fine-press and artist printers. Working with the extensive array of metal type at Thin Ice Press (the Department's in-house letterpress studio) you will learn the principles of typography, the mechanics of setting type and the use of our historic 19th and 20th century presses, to create your own portfolio of work. We will discover key moments in the history of letterpress printing, and enhance your understanding of key concepts and techniques through a series of lectures and workshop sessions.
For several centuries, letterpress printing was the dominant mode of disseminating information. While moveable type was known and used in Asia before Gutenberg's discovery, his bringing together of existing technologies and invention of new ones revolutionised Europe. Thin Ice Press was established to allow students and researchers to experience the physicality of printing materials, understand the processes involved in the creation of printing, and experiment with incorporating letterpress techniques into contemporary creative practice.
The module is both theoretical and practical and will be taught through a combination of seminars and practical sessions in the Press room. Throughout the module you will work on exercises designed to give a thorough grounding in the fundamental principles of setting type by hand, terminology, and proofing, before using those skills to create a longer piece of creative work. There will be opportunities to explore other methods of relief printing (linocut, woodcut, making plates from digital artwork, collagraph etc).
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The aim of this module is to show you how to engage in hands-on printing at Thin Ice Press, working on your projects with metal and wooden type. You will also learn about aspects of printing history, its interaction with the creative process, and the shifting relationship between printer, publisher and author.
On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:
demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the mechanical principles of setting type; the ability to use ink, paper and type appropriately on a hand press to obtain good results; and the ability to troubleshoot problems encountered while setting and printing.
demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the terminology of letterpress printing, the mechanics of our printing presses, and their underlying principles;
demonstrate an advanced understanding of the history of letterpress printing, with a particular emphasis on literary printing and creative practice;
Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with contemporary and historical letterpress printing;
produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
Throughout the module, we will draw on a wide range of texts and examples, ensuring that women printers and scholars, and printers and scholars who identify as Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic or Global Majority, are well-represented, along with work relating to languages other than English. We will explore questions of class and the connections between fine press printing, protest, social justice and socialist groups. This module is distinctive in its approach and assessments, and represents a valuable opportunity for students who feel they will benefit from practice-led teaching and assessment.
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Original Printing Project
In weeks 2 to 5 of the term, you will create a formative portfolio of 4 minor pieces of work showing complete sets of proofs, corrections, amendments and design decisions.
Following the week 6 Reading Week you will work on completing one major piece of work which will form part of the summative assessment for the module. Sample ideas or projects include:
The remainder of the summative assessment will be a 2000 word critical essay, responding to the content of the module and the project which you have created.
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You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
Reading for this module may include:
We will also look together at a wide range of fine press and letterpress printed books and other materials.