Before computers became the sole progenitors of almost all our visual artefacts, printing was a labour-intensive task that involved applying incredible pressure to inked blocks using machines weighing thousands of kilos. At the Common Press, in the basement of the University of Pennsylvania's Fine Arts Building, artists are still using this outdated technology — right down to ink from the same company Ben Franklin used.
We recently had a chance to visit the studio in Philadelphia, where the director of Common Press, Matt Neff, showed us how letterpress works. As part of UPenn's School of Design, the facility is used to teach students about printmaking, and it also functions as a research and collaboration centre for artists engaged in book-making, poster printing, and experimentation with type.
Watch the video of our tour above — you'll look at your crappy inkjet printer in a whole new light.