Word Parts

When you practice a craft, particularly one as rich in tradition as letterpress, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s only one way of doing things, and that straying away from the path known as ‘good practice’ defeats the purpose of the task. Over the last year, we’ve been collaborating with an artist who not only wanted to immerse herself in the history and techniques of printing (type, ink, paper, bookbinding), but also ultimately intended to deconstruct these traditions in order to create new forms.

Despite having experienced letterpress during her time at Glasgow School of Art and the RCA, Alida Kuzemczak-Sayer was keen to begin by reacquainting herself with the press room: composing type, locking-up formes, inking and pulling the press. Having refamiliarised herself with these techniques, a freer form of investigation could begin. Experiments with paper – often kozo (a light-weight stock, hand-made from Japanese mulberry) – tested its ‘tearability’ as well as its printing surface. Rubbings were taken from metal type, particularly the flowing forms of the script fonts. The inked surfaces of wooden type was disrupted with a shower of white spirit and the paintbrush-like strokes of leather dabbing rods that Alida had made for the purpose.

Spreads from ‘Word Parts’ catalogue

Spreads from ‘Word Parts’ catalogue

Spreads from ‘Word Parts’ catalogue

Eventually, the piles of printed sheets resulting from days of work that filled the studio’s drying racks would disappear, taken to Alida’s Norfolk studio to be reinterpreted. They would reemerge unrecognisable as awe-inspiring sculptures that play with the boundaries of the printed word. Setting out to use the tools of letterpress and respond to its traditions, while managing to create outcomes that feel original and unexpected is a formidable goal, but something that these artworks seem to do effortlessly.

The project culminates in Word Parts, an exhibition at Standpoint Gallery – an appropriate venue, being on the ground floor of the building that houses our studio where the works began to take shape – and was supported by Arts Council England and Henry Moore Foundation. New North Press has published a special catalogue to accompany the show.

It’s been a great pleasure to be involved in the project and we thoroughly recommend visiting the exhibition in person, and/or reading more about Alida’s work in the catalogue.

Word Parts
10 November – 9 December 2023
Standpoint Gallery
45 Coronet Street, London N1 6HD

All artworks and imagery by Alida Kuzemczak-Sayer. Photography by Philip Sayer.

The World Must Change

To coincide with the exhibition David King: The World Must Change at Standpoint Gallery (on the ground floor of our building) we will be running a series of special poster workshops on Saturday 15 October. Participants are invited to respond to the show’s title, using our woodtype to add their own protest lines to The World Must Change posters.

Saturday 15 October
Session 1: 10.00–11.30
Session 2: 11.30–13.00
Session 3: 14.00–15.30
Session 4: 15.30–17.00
Session price £30 per person, max. 4 tickets per session

From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, the British graphic designer David King’s protest posters gave left-wing causes a powerfully persuasive new identity. His extra-bold designs for the Anti-Nazi League, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the National Union of Journalists, and other organisations presented their messages with a graphic force and conviction that no one could ignore. King was a master of hard-hitting typography with an equally assured command of photography.

David King: The World Must Change
16 September–22 October 2022
Standpoint Gallery, 45 Coronet Street, London N1 6HD
Open Thursday–Saturday, 12–5pm. Admission is free.

More information about David King: davidkingdesigner.com
Curated by Rick Poynor. Exhibition designed by Simon Esterson.

Hoxton woodtype

New North Press has been based in Hoxton, East London since 1986 but the area has had a long association with print and its related industries, in particular the manufacture of wood type.

During the late 1800s Hoxton was renound for its furniture-makers and wood trades in general flourished in the area following the completion of Regents Canal in 1820 which provided an easily accessible supply of heavy materials and lumber. Some remnants of this industry can still be seen by those with a keen eye walking the area. It must have been a loud and busy place with many specialist trades such as veneering, French polishing, joiners, sawyers, turners and saw mill operators working alongside related industries like piano manufacturers and other skilled workers such as tailors, ironworkers, saddlers and cordwainers.

One ‘printer’s joiner’ of particular note were Gould & Reeves who operated from Wenlock Street from 1878 to 1904. As well as producing wood type, cabinets and print office furnishings they also offered engraving services for advertising (as this block for a ‘cure-all’ medicine in the V&A’s collection shows). Many others firms in the area will also have contributed to the booming print industry whose centre was just over a mile away at Fleet Street.

Needless to say we feel very fortunate to be based in an area steeped in the history of our craft.

With thanks to David Wakefield

Courtesy of David Wakefield, 23 Press

Reverting to Type 2020 – DATE CHANGE

Due to the global pandemic and its wide-spread effects we have decided to push the exhibition back to later in the year to allow more time for the making and sending of work. The show is now scheduled to take place in November and not July as originally planned. Thanks for bearing with us.

* Update 03.11.20
The UK Government has announced four weeks of national lockdown (5 November to 2 December) so, as the gallery cannot be open, we have had to move the the launch date back to the first week of December. And, as restrictions could go on for longer, we’ve also managed to extend the dates until the end of January 2021 to try and compensate. We’ve already had to delay the show once and don’t want to keep doing this so the plan is to launch in December, even if restrictions are still in place.

Letterpress Protest Posters

This summer we will be holding an exhibition of letterpress protest posters.

Marking 10 years since our last Reverting to Type exhibition, 2020’s show will be for artwork with something to say: sounding a warning signal about the global climate crisis; railing against fake news and surveillance capitalism; confronting fascism, sexism and racism; fighting for equal opportunities and inclusivity. As before, this will be an international exhibition showcasing progressive letterpress artwork from presses around the world, alongside the work of students and specially-invited collaborators.

Full information on how to register and submit can be found here:

This is an open invitation to anyone with access to a printing press so please help us by sharing the link above

National Saturday Club

We’re very proud to have been a part of the National Saturday Club again this year. Giving young people the chance to express themselves through letterpress is something we’ve always considered a duty at NNP and we never fail to be impressed by the passion and creativity in the results.

Former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, quoted the excellent poster above during her speech at the Private View evening of the scheme’s Summer Show which is on at Somerset House, London until 16 June and is well worth a visit.

Photo: © Saturday Club Trust/Jo Mieszkowski

Tipoteca – Fibonacci print edition

The result of our trip to Tipoteca Italiana: a number-inspired edition of 400 poster/booklets. These prints use numerals to chart the history of the museum, its location (longitude and latitude) and pay tribute to Fibonacci, showcasing some lovely woodtype along the way! They can be purchased from the Tipoteca shop with all proceeds going to the museum.

Italian mathematician Fibonacci is famous for having transformed European culture by introducing the Hindu-Arabic numerals (1-9) and the concept of zero (which was treated with deep suspicion until this point) in the year 1202. The booklet’s structure is based around the Fibonacci Sequence (a series of numbers where a number is found by adding up the two numbers before it). The cover also features the typographic portrait of each of its makers in the form of the type height (in mm) of their country of origin.

A collaboration with John Christopher, Thomas Gravemaker, Sander Pinkse, Stéphane De Schrevel and Michael Karner.

Tipoteca Italiana

Lying on the edge of Italy’s Prosecco region just north of Venice is Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione, a museum founded to preserve the history of Italian letterpress. For anyone interested in typography and printing, a pilgrimage to this Aladdin’s cave of wonders is essential. To say the museum is extensive is a huge understatement: aside from exhibits plotting the evolution of printing you will find hundreds of cases of well-preserved wooden and metal type, some dating as far back as the early 1800s, working presses of all shapes and sizes (including Dell’Orto handpresses and a Rodgers Typograph), equipment and tools used in the production of type (such as Bodoni punches and the matrices and patterns for fonts by designers such as Aldo Novaresse and Alessandro Butti) and a library of rare books (with original Aldus Manutius editions and Bodoni’s Fregi e majuscule and Manuale Tipografico typeface specimens).

And Tipoteca is a working museum, with operational machines and a program of classes in printing, calligraphy and bookbinding. Graham and Richard were fortunate enough to be invited to spend a week exploring and using the collection to produce a print edition in celebration of the museum’s 15th anniversary, along with John Christopher, Thomas Gravemaker, Sander Pinkse, Stéphane De Schrevel and Michael Karner (more information on the print edition to follow). Our stay was made all the more enjoyable by the friendship and generosity of Silvio Antiga and Sandro Berra and the delicious food and wine at Le Corderie restaurant opposite the museum – alla prossima!

New North Press at Chelsea

Following a long-standing relationship with Chelsea College of Arts (whose students have been visiting New North Press to learn letterpress since 2002) we are pleased to announce ‘New North Press at Chelsea’.

Anyone who has visited NNP will know that it is a treasure trove that is almost filled to the rafters as we continually try to squeeze more cabinets of type into the space we have. Until recently Graham also had a storage unit of equipment that was, in all honesty, never going to fit in our studio. So, rather than letting it gather dust in the dark, he decided that the teaching experience for Chelsea students could be enhanced by using this to set up an on-site workshop.

It is early days for the facility (this years’ 1st year students on the BA Graphic Design Communication course will be the first to benefit, under the experienced eye of Nigel Bents) but we are very pleased that the equipment will be in use and that the initial experience of hands-on learning with us will be extended by its existence.

Advanced letterpress classes

Attendees of our Introduction to Letterpress classes often ask us about coming back to further their knowledge, and there certainly is a lot we don’t have time to cover in a day where the priority is getting to grips with the basics. So we decided to begin a series of Advanced Letterpress classes, covering a selection of techniques and the pressmanship involved in executing them.

The first class (June 2017) covered debossing, overprinting and metal type composition. Participants chose a letter and used our type library to design layouts employing each technique which would also later be combined as a complete print: a dictionary definition composed in metal type, a lone debossed character, and alternate styles of character overprinted. Everyone was able to print multiple versions on various paper stocks so it was a very productive day with some great results.

Advanced letterpress classes covering different techniques will follow, alongside our regular Introductory classes, but in the immediate future we’ve decided to repeat Class 1 in November. See our Classes page for all upcoming class dates.