Printing by Hand

Printing Process

Printing by hand on a wooden press is an involved and difficult process, especially for beginners. First, the type must be composed in the type tray. In order to do this, all the letters are assembled backwards and upside down in the appropriate order, with spacers to allow for white sections between lines. Furniture is placed around the typeforms to fill empty space and create borders. Wedges are then tapped in to keep the type rigid during printing.

Before the first sheet is printed, scrap paper is attached to the frisket to protect all margins from extra ink. Sheets are pressed into small protruding nails on the tympan to register the paper.

Preparing ink is also a laborious process. Historically, ink was extremely viscous and had to be heated and stirred until a manageable consistency was reached. Originally, ink balls (leather-covered balls filled with horsehair and attatched to wooden handles) were used to apply ink.

Printing Press Terms and Definitions

The Steps of the Printing Process

Special Collections Press: Printing Instructions