Dae ye ken yer ane leid?

The Pathfoot Press has had a quiet summer, due in large part to its director and lead designer welcoming their daughter into the world in June.  As term draws nigh, however, we’re beginning to brush the dust off the quoins and blow cobwebs out of the type cases.

Our first project has been a small one.  Printing produces many scraps of paper, some too small for anything but the recycling bin, others of a size to be creatively reused and this afternoon we did exactly that, taking off-cuts from a project undertaken early in the year and turning them into some – we hope! – thought-provoking bookmarks.

Just the right size for a bookmark . . .

After years of campaigning, the 2011 census was the first to ask residents of Scotland whether they spoke Scots. 1.54 million people, or 30% of the population aged three and over, responded “yes” (see the analysis of the responses here). On the one hand, that’s a huge number, far larger than had often been assumed before. On the other, that means that 7 out of 10 residents of Scotland don’t speak the language of Burns and Dunbar, Henryson and MacDiarmid.

In the chase.

Since it was founded, one of the goals of the Pathfoot Press has been to support Scots-language literature, whether that means printing new work or reprinting old classics. But, as the statistics show, that literature isn’t fully accessible to many people and it’s that paradox which this small project reflects upon.

Fresh off the Adana.

These bookmarks will be available at all Press events in the 2019-20 academic year (while supplies last).

What about you? Dae ye ken yer ane leid?

(c) 2019 Pathfoot Press

Christmas at the Pathfoot Press

Staff Art Tour and Pathfoot Press Open Afternoon
Wednesday 12th December

12.30pm – 1.30pm Staff Art Tour (meet at Pathfoot Reception)
The Art Collection curators are offering a free guided tour for University staff in the Pathfoot Building. The tour will include information about the history of the Collection, key artworks and current exhibitions including the Experiences of Exile exhibition which focusses on the issue of refugees and migration. If you would like to attend please RSVP to: art.collection@stir.ac.uk

1.30pm – 3.30pm Pathfoot Press Open Afternoon (C7B Pathfoot Building)
The Pathfoot Press is opening the doors to visitors on 12th December. The Press was founded in 2016 as a centre for letterpress printing, teaching, and research. Come and meet the team and see our working press room with its own Columbian Press. The event includes the opportunity to print your own keepsake Christmas card.

Letterpress: Art or Craft?

Some thoughts by our director on the art vs. craft debate as it applies to letterpress. What do you think? Is it an art? A craft? Both? Neither?

Kelsey Jackson Williams

Anyone who has spent much time in the world of visual and material culture will be familiar with the so-called “art vs. craft debate”.  Rooted in early modern and modern western European distinctions between (fine) “art”, e.g., Michelangelo’s David, and (not so fine) “craft”, e.g., a Toby jug, this perceived duality continues to echo through the contemporary art world despite repeated attempts to destabilise it, recalibrate it, or simply ignore it altogether [1].

As a printer, I only began to think about where letterpress might fit into all of this last year when a glass maker of my acquaintance asked me, did I think of myself as an artist or a craftsman?  At the time I off-handedly said “craftsman”, but in reality I don’t think the answer can be quite so simple.

The problem is that both “art” and “craft” come with their own cultural baggage.  When we…

View original post 556 more words

Volcanoes in Print!

The Pathfoot Press is delighted to announce the fruits of an ongoing collaboration with the University of St Andrews Centre for Landscape Studies.  This will involve a series of event on Thursday, 6 December, including a letterpress printing workshop, an exhibition of early printed books in St Andrews Special Collections, and a lecture by Professor Gareth Williams of the University of Columbia on, amongst other things, one of the most revolutionary outputs of the fifteenth-century Venetian print trade.

Remember that for the printing workshop spaces are limited, so if you would like to attend please contact Dr. Dawn Hollis at dawn.hollis@st-andrews.ac.uk to register.

The workshop will be preceded by the exhibition . . .

volcano blog 2

. . . and followed later that evening by Professor Williams’s lecture:

volcano blog 3

We hope to see you there!


A New Home for the Pathfoot Press

Since its (re-)foundation in 2016, the Pathfoot Press has existed in a corner of the publishing lab in C corridor of the Pathfoot Building.  Recently, however, we were given the exciting opportunity to expand: a whole new, dedicated room just for the press and its equipment!  The only catch – we had to move within the week.  And that we did.  The press itself was disassembled and moved on Tuesday and the printers – with the indispensable aid of Sarah and a trolley – moved the remaining plant on Thursday.

At first the new room was looking pretty barren, but it rapidly took shape . . . .

New Room Empty

New Room TraysNew Room DawnNew Room Dawn 2New Room Finished

We’re tremendously placed with our new space and very much look forward to making use of its expanded capacity for teaching, events, and more printing full-stop.  We hope you’ll be able to join us for a celebration of the press, its new room, and its upcoming two-year anniversary in the near future.  Stay tuned for details!



Copyright © 2018 The Pathfoot Press

The Hinman Collator

As of yesterday, the Columbian and the Adana have some new company in the press room.  Around the same time that our press room plant was purchased in the 1970s, the pioneering bibliographers of the newly-founded University of Stirling also bought one of the rarest and most remarkable pieces of book historical technology ever made: a Hinman Collator.  Decades later, however, the knowledge of what the Collator was and why the university owned it had almost vanished; it was covered in dust, shunted from spare room to spare room, and viewed by most as an incomprehensible piece of outdated rubbish.  Things came to a head when its then resting place was needed for office space.  Perhaps we could donate it to a museum, one person proposed, while others suggested we simply scrap this ugly and useless relic.

Mercifully, that didn’t happen.  Hasty e-mail negotiations led to the Collator finding a new home, at the eleventh hour, in the premises of the Pathfoot Press.  In between student meetings yesterday afternoon I began to clean and repair its viewing stands and now it sits happily ensconced between a workbench covered in formes and drying piles of letterpress and the publishing students’ computers, laden with the latest in design software.

Hinman Collator Detail 1

But what is a Hinman Collator and why is it so important?  In short, it’s a device which allows for the rapid comparison of two near-identical texts – say, for example, two copies of the same letterpress book – and the quick identification of any variations between the two.  That hardly captures it significance, however.  In the words of its historian, Steven Escar Smith, “The Hinman Collator represents one of the most important applications of technology to the study of literature ever made”.

Charlton Hinman
Charlton Hinman, the collator’s inventor (image courtesy of the Guggenheim Foundation).

Its origins lie in the work of Charlton Hinman (1911-1977), an American literary scholar and naval cryptologist.  Frustrated with the agonisingly slow process of collating letterpress texts, he recalled the military practice of overlaying aerial photographs to identify the movement of enemy forces or similar changes in the landscape.  Could a similar principle be applied to textual collation?  By 1947 he had developed a prototype constructed from a “pair of ordinary microfilm projectors (borrowed from the Navy), some pieces of wooden apple box (abstracted from a trash pile), some heavy cardboard (begged from the Folger bindery), and parts of a rusty Erector set (more or less hi-jacked from the small son of a close personal friend).”

This Rube Goldberg machine of a collator was then put to work in Hinman’s ongoing studies of the Shakespeare First Folio.  In 1963 he reported his results in The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare in which the vastly-increased ease of collation provided by his invention allowed him to break new ground in understanding how Shakespeare’s work had evolved as it came off the press in 1623.  His researches with the collator underlie all modern editions of Shakespeare and inspired the production a further fifty-eight copies of the machine, most of which were purchased by university libraries but a few of which were given over to more esoteric purposes: identifying forged banknotes, catching errors in pharmaceutical labelling, or government intelligence-gathering, to name a few.

The last Hinman Collator was built in 1978, a year after Hinman’s death.  When a census was taken in 2002, only forty-one of the original fifty-nine machines survived and only six of those were in Europe.  As such, Stirling’s Collator is a remarkably rare survival of the golden age of bibliography and is, as we now proudly tell visitors, “the most northerly Hinman Collator in the world”.

Hinman Collator Detail 3

We’re determined to make full use of this important cultural artefact.  Already, we have an editing workshop planned for September (stay tuned for details) which will demonstrate its use as a still-relevant collation tool and we hope to offer more events surrounding it in the future.  For any bibliographers wishing to have access to a Hinman Collator, please contact us.  We would be delighted to facilitate your use of our machine in whatever ways we can.

And so, from almost becoming a casualty of the efficiency-minded modern university, the Collator has been saved – at least for a time – and may yet have its uses in the production of new and important scholarly editions.  The Pathfoot Press is proud to offer it a new home, as a mark of its central role in the modern reception and understanding of traditional letterpress printing.

 – Kelsey


Copyright © 2018 The Pathfoot Press

Practical Printing for Book Historians

Earlier this year we advertised the first in a series of workshops collectively entitled “The 21st-Century Book Historian“.  Last week it finally happened: for a long Wednesday afternoon the press room was full of doctoral students from across Scotland, learning about and participating in the processes of letterpress printing.

Our keynote speaker taking a pull on the Columbian.

It was a wonderful day.  We – we being the full cohort of press workers: Dawn, Kelsey, Mhairi, Bean, and Sarah – took the students through setting, make ready, pulling, and folding, using our in-progress publication of James Fraser’s account of Venice as raw material.  The day concluded with a fantastic paper on material bibliography by the inimitable Jamie Cumby of St Andrews (@JECumby) followed by a brief response from Daryl Green, Librarian of Magdalen College, Oxford (@Ilikeoldbooks).

Demonstrating setting.

I’m pretty sure that everyone had fun and I hope that everyone came away from the day having learned something they didn’t know before (my favourite quote was from one participant who, after taking a pull on the Columbian, exclaimed, “I’ll never blame the early moderns for poor printing again!”).  Certainly, us printers learned a huge amount from the experience.  Not only did it push us into doing a larger, more ambitious project (the Fraser) than we’ve done before, it also encouraged us to reflect on our own practice in new ways prior to sharing that practice with the participants.  The road to good printing is neither a short nor an easy one, but I hope that this workshop saw everyone a little further along it than we were before.

Sheet in Press
Fresh on the press: one of the sheets with which participants learned how to fold a quarto gathering.

Going forward, we’re hoping to doing many more workshops like this (one is already planned for September and we’re currently applying for funding which might allow us to do another before that).  It’s such an immense pleasure teaching the intricacies of letterpress and a great privilege to be part of an organisation that allows us to do so.  Last week already saw at least one participant whose piqued interest may lead her further into the world of printing and I hope that in the long run we might be able to play some small role in igniting the interest of a new generation of Scottish letterpress printers.

– Kelsey


Copyright © 2018 The Pathfoot Press