Publisher note from Suzzanne Kelley
*If you are a letterpress printer, please see my purple note at the end of this message.
Since 2016, the NDSU Intro to Publishing students, working with NDSU Press, have had the chance to learn how to operate turn-of-the-20th-century letterpresses. We begin with a Saturday at Hunter Times, a museum located in West Fargo at Bonanzaville. Having learned about Chandler & Price letterpresses and safety measures, students take a turn at letterpress printing. Allan Burke–an expert in all matters about letterpress history and operations–provides a tour, and then in small-group format, students begin the process of letterpress printing the chapbook covers for the current winner of our Poetry of Plains and Prairies Award.
Later in the semester, on a Friday afternoon, we load up a caravan of cars and head for The Braddock News Letterpress Museum, located on the vast grounds of the South Central Threshing Association. The drive is about two-and-a-half hours from campus, and for some of my students, it is the farthest west they’ve ever been.
On Friday night, our host, Allan Burke, gives the students yet another tour. The Braddock News Letterpress Museum is home to multiple pieces of equipment dating from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Here, the students have hands-on access to Chandler & Price letterpresses, a 1940s stitcher, and a trimmer, dating also from the turn of the 20th century.
Following our museum tour, we dine sumptuously courtesy of the Threshers Association Iron Men and board officers, some of whom do the welcoming, cooking, serving, and cleaning. Initial printing begins after supper.
The students learn about moveable type, and we generally put that knowledge to work when we print our covers. For printing the interior, however, we do resort to some modernization. It would take too long to set type for the forty interior pages, so we order up raised-magnesium printing plates instead. Each plate prints two pages on one side of a sheet of paper. When the papers dry, we can flip them over to print two more pages.
We start this enterprise as amateurs, and we finish as proficient Devils Printers…the official name for our interns with experience under their belts and ink under their fingernails.
In this, the year of the pandemic, our options for continuation of this splendid enterprise have become limited for the production of our newest addition to the chapbook series, A Muddy Kind of Love, by Carolyn Dahl. We must cut out our trip to Braddock. We’ll still meet face-to-face in small groups (optional, not required) at Hunter Times to print our covers for the newest addition to our chapbook series. Our current plan (subject to revision) is to hire a professional letterpress printer to print and assemble the interior. If you or someone you know fits the bill, please contact Suzzanne Kelley post haste for details. Contact information is available at our website.