Monday, November 14, 2011

The Bixler Press & Letterfoundry

Letterpress broadside by Michael and Winifred Bixler, 2011, 26 x 18 inches.
For the next two years, I am interning once a week at The Bixler Press & Letterfoundry in Skaneateles, NY. Last summer, Michael and Winnie designed, wrote, cast the monotype for this incredible broadside. The decorative border is also monotype cast and hand-set by Michael. At a closer look, you will find that the border is symmetrical, but it doesn't repeat. It shifts, changes, evolves as the pattern works its way down the sides and across the top and bottom of the print. This is accomplished by a careful rotation of a variety of decorative 24 point cuts. It is absolutely lovely.

The other impressive aspect of this broadside is that it was written and designed in type. This represents Michael's extensive knowledge about the history of typography. But more impressive to me: it wasn't formatted on the computer. It clearly demonstrates Michael's understanding of the physical space in typesetting. He knows how much line and leading space is available, how much room each letter takes up. The result is something that is at once beautifully designed, informative, readable, AND everything fits on the page. I think that the reality of the physical limitations of type is really hard to wrap your head around unless you have set type in this way. The computer gives such a false sense of typesetting--the computer is far more flexible and forgiving.

When I began my internship in October, Winnie showed me the finished print along with the border, which had sadly, been pied. Last week, I re-set the border so that Michael can expand it for another broadside he intends to print on the Heidelberg Press.
Nearing the end, the border is almost re-set.
I had to refer to the printed broadside as I re-set the 24 point (and smaller) patterned cuts.
Detail of the pattern border set in lead.
Detail of the pattern border printed on paper.