This is just our take on it. Find out more about the history, art, and craft of letterpress here.
Letterpress is one of the oldest forms of printing, first gaining popularity in 15th century Europe, when Johannes Gutenberg invented a hand press to print 180 copies of the Bible. After that, letterpress was the standard in printing until the mid-twentieth century, when more efficient presses overtook the market.
Presses before the mid-20th Century did not use electricity. The craft of letterpress involves hand cutting paper, hand mixing inks, hand feeding cards into the press, one color at a time, while operating it with a food treadle. Seliz still practices these handmade methods, using our Chandler & Price platen press from 1906 and our mid-century Challenge guillotine paper cutter. Letterpress is also limited run. When we create cards, we usually create a small batch, in the tens. And, while we do carry some inventory for our own retail sales, most of our wholesale orders are made to order. They are just for you, your shop, and your customers.
Since letterpress has regained popularity, now as an artisan craft, it is considered one of the most luxurious printing methods for high-end stationery and invitations.
Letterpress is a relief printing method. Traditionally, letterpress printers did not like to see an impression in the paper. Anything more than a ‘kiss’ was considered a bad print. Today, letterpress printers and customers love to see the impression left by the type on the paper. This deep impression leaves a tactile product that, to the touch, feels a bit special.
Most of the paper used by letterpress printers today, including Seliz, is 100% cotton and made from recycled remnants of the garment industry. No trees are killed in the making of our papers! Also, the letterpress industry offers other recycled papers and soy based inks.
It's Not Perfect.
The handmade nature of letterpress printing means you can often see slight variations between batches or even between cards in a single batch, including cut, color, ink coverage, layout, etc. Each of our cards is reviewed for quality and only the very best make it to market. But, we also appreciate the variations in our products, as a reminder that they weren’t mass produced! They were made by a person! And, that’s what we all love about handmade goods, right?