Custodians of Ancient Crafts and Apparatus
With backgrounds in corporate and industrial worlds – nothing to do with printing, binding or even design – imPRESSed was always going to be an ambitious undertaking. However, every day we strive to gain and preserve knowledge and insight into a craft that is slowly disappearing and create a one-of-a-kind space.
imPRESSed was meant to be early 20th century jobbing letterpress and bookbinding workshop. Over time it has morphed into largest collection of bookbinding and printing tools and apparatus in South Africa. Various equipment was sourced/saved from roof of old print shop in central Joburg to mealie field in Mpumalanga, from a private collector in Pretoria to a third generation printer in Cape Town (who did not have heart to scrap his heirloom) and countless other places in between. Many pieces came to us in horrible state and indeed some had to be scrapped, but the great majority has responded quite well to a little elbow grease and nearly everything that is housed in our collection is fully operational.
After five years of building, learning, saving, collecting, restoring, and trying to earn enough to make the collection sustainable, we had to pause and take count of what we have achieved, and more importantly where are see ourselves in few years’ time. Our achievements everyone can see, especially with this new edition of our web site. Our aspirations on other hand are perfectly described by the title: “Custodians of Ancient Crafts and Apparatus”, meaning: less printing and binding and more preserving and sharing. Yes, it means that we might refuse jobs that do not benefit continued existence of the museum.
After months of preparation, in early 2019 we launched world first Virtual Printing Museum, a platform to allow anyone with internet access to visit the Collection. It is work in progress and we hope that in time, together with the blog and YouTube channel, it will become important and comprehensive repository of South African information on bookbinding and printing history. You can find it elsewhere on this site.
Another new initiative for 2019 are our Signature Journals. Born from the need to have bread and butter product that will create revenue needed to support the Museum as well as provide opportunity for young artists and graphic designers to showcase their abilities. Starting from January we will be releasing monthly limited edition of up to 750 journals/notebooks. Each month will have new and unique cover and end leaf artwork, by different artist, together with their bio and signature. The text block will be entirely letterpress printed, and bound mostly by hand.
With digital everything, there is no bigger statement than letterpress. Huge, heavy machinery doused in oil is the antithesis of our perfect, instantly gratified lives. Sure, modern letterpress is different to what it used to be 100 years ago, in the depth of impression mainly, but the same deep impression is what makes it stand head and shoulders above any other printing method.
The hours of preparation, use of vintage foundry and wood type, custom blocks, selection of fine papers and the smell of letterpress ink will give your project the unique feel of quality, taste and eternal appeal.
If you have idea that would benefit from letterpress touch, contact us, we might be able to assist you.
“The trade of Bookbinder has been ranked among the most difficult of the arts. It is incontestably one requiring much care, great neatness, correct taste, and attentive practice, to form a skilful workman and without these requisites no one will ever attain the three great characteristics of good binding: solidity, elasticity and elegance.”
Those words were written in 1835 by John Hannett (alias John Arnett) in his Bibliopegia, a book that became a manual for generations of bookbinders. Today, nearly 200 years later, there is hardly a book to be seen that possesses those attributes. Commercially bound volumes are hardly elastic or elegant, while lots of custom bound books are made to be more of an ornament than object of use. How many books produced or bound today will be still around in a centuries to come? Not many, but we strive to ensure ours will be amongst them.
Laser, Rotary Engraving & Cutting
You may wonder what modern technology has to do with vintage machinery and old-style print techniques? For one: we sometimes have to recreate missing piece of wood type or make copy of a block too worn to be used again. Secondly, it allow us to bring modern designs to the world of letterpress. However, as romantic as letterpress and bookbinding are, they are hardly profitable activities in twenty first century South Africa. Laser engraving and cutting, together with our online rubber stamp business have been supporting our collection and museum.
Wednesday Evening Classes
Starting from the New Year we will offer various programs happening over a number of Wednesday evenings, from 6pm to 9pm. The classes will cater for four people at a time. There will be bookbinding at various levels, book repair, hobby letterpress, marbling etc. All will start from basic, introductory levels. We will gauge the interest and announce the calendar and programs by early December.
This idea was on the drawing board right from the beginning: an ‘underground’ place, strictly by appointment only, where bibliophiles can become themselves. The space we created had to resemble our favourite library in South Africa: The Africana in Kimberley, complete with cast iron Victorian staircase. The idea kept evolving and in 2019 we will launch internet bookstore with difference. There will be no data bases for one to search, but rows and rows of shelves to filter through from comfort of your own chair.