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Q:Is it possible to letterpress a 10-foot or more continuous piece of paper that later could be folded?

I am a book artist considering using letterpress on a project, to include 18 poems, that might be a very long accordion book.

Ask the Experts #10

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Submitted By

Rick Black

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Expert Replies

4

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Topic(s)

Letterpress
On Press
Paper

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It is possible. If you wanted to do it on a continuous sheet of paper, an Iron Hand Press would be your best bet. That way you could just feed it over the press bed, clip it down and then roll every thing under the platen. Registration could be an issue with the later suggestion. It would be hard to do on any other press unless it was really really big. Or maybe an etching press. I know Yee-Haw Industries used to have a 4-by-12-feet press they did huge work on. You could do it in one pass on that thing. I think Kevin Bradley took it to Cali with him.

I have seen a book like this at the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press. It was amazing. I'm not sure how they did it though. It may have been done in smaller press sheets then laminated to another of the same sheets to link all the pages together.


I agree with Tony and would reiterate the need for a flat printing bed, rather than a cylinder-based letterpress, like the Vandercook. I'd also add that the real challenge would be finding a decent substrate large enough to produce a continuous sheet 10-feet-plus (or even 4-feet or 5-feet plus). You'll get a roll of paper, but the thickness and weight would have to be light enough to roll, which would probably be negatively affected by letterpress printing. I've seen accordion books, but they're usually sections glued together, using flat stock.


The suggestions above sound plausible if not expensive. A project like this is probably better suited for screenprinting than letterpress. Apparently, back in the day they used to have some sort of cylinder press that was used to produce wallpaper — see here and here for wallpaper printing. The problem I see with this approach though is wall paper is designed to work with a continuous repeat pattern and I am not sure if that makes for good poetry.


I would tend to agree with John about printing and gluing each page (or two) to create the book? I would expect that (even offset) accordion-fold books would often be printed this way (gluing at regular intersections relative to the sheet size printed upon). Whether possible or not (to have one continuous sheet), is less of an issue than is it worth the effort and money to make a big deal out of this. The only instance where you wouldn't want any glue seams between pages is if there is printing on both sides of the sheet.

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Armin Vit

Editor of FPO and co-founder of UnderConsideration LLC.

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Date Published

August 22, 2012

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Ask the Experts
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On Press
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