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Letterpress Printing - ENG00143M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Nick Gill
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

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).

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

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.

Module learning outcomes

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.

Module content

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.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Critical Essay
N/A 50
Essay/coursework
Original Printing Project
N/A 50

Special assessment rules

None

Additional assessment information

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:

  • a collection of small pieces of ephemera around a theme or event;
  • a broadside;
  • a specimen sheet;
  • a sewn pamphlet/booklet

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.

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Reassessment Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

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

Indicative reading

Reading for this module may include:

  • Pedro Amado, Ana Catarina Silva and Vítor Quelhas, Post-Digital Letterpress Printing: Research, Education and Practice (New York and London: Routledge, 2022)
  • Richard Gabriel Rummonds, Printing on the Iron Handpress (Oak Knoll Press, 1998)
  • Cathie Rugger Saunders and Martha Chiplis, For the Love of Letterpress: A Printing Handbook for Instructors and Students (London: Bloomsbury, 2019)
  • Oliver Simon, Introduction to Typography (Penguin Books, 1954)

We will also look together at a wide range of fine press and letterpress printed books and other materials.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.