I remember watching a video of a printer talking about seeing a slight depression in letterpress printed text that made it different and more precious than modern printing techniques. He explained that there was a different ‘feel’ to the text and even the way the words ‘read’ on the page was an experience. He said that the ink was pressed into the fibers of the paper instead of sprayed on top. And looking at the books he printed, they were something special. I was struck by his words and books.
In the letterpress world, there is a big debate over Kiss vs Deep impressions. Kiss impressions are just hard enough to leave a clean print. Deep impressions leave a noticeable, sometimes very deep, impression in the paper (if you Google ‘letterpress,’ you’ll likely find images of business cards or note cards with deep impression–tell me they are striking!).
Deep impressions look great, but there’s risk to the press and the type/block. Metal and wood type can be smashed and damaged by too much pressure. Too much pressure can also break brittle, old cast iron presses. These are risks I’d rather not take.
So, I try my best to create a light, clean impression—a kiss. For the most part, I’m successful…it’s a delicate play of adding and taking away of packing…we’re talking a few thousandths of an inch. Sometimes, I don’t succeed.
The text in the picture above is deeper than I intended, but I have to admit that I like how it looks and if I run my fingers over the paper, I can feel slight impressions. Every time this happens, I remember that video. The printer held the page up the light and tilted it enough so the camera could catch the slight shadows of the depressions. The memory is still that vivid for me.
I know that visible impressions are a risk, but maybe they are ones that I can indulge in every once in a while…call them happy accidents.