Graduate Letterpress Workshop

Claudia L. Johnson recently initiated a letterpress workshop with printer David Sellers at Pied Oxen Printers in Hopewell, New Jersey. A brave band of graduate students—Hope Rogers, Miranda Marraccini, Jessica Terekhov, and Cameron VanSant—along with Sarah M. Anderson and John Orluk Lacombe joined Johnson in a series of seven 3-hour workshops with Sellers designed around an ambitious goal: to design, handset, proof, print, gather, and sew a chapbook of poems contributed by six faculty and graduate student poets. Workshop participants learned about the history of the book, the development of movable type from manuscript, and the histories of specific typefaces. But what engaged the group the most was learning how to set type and to print by hand. In this age of e-books and virtual-everything, working with the sheer materiality of type and texts—setting every letter and every space—gave the group a feeling for their dimensionality. Setting a poem backwards and upside down is not merely a manner of printing a poem but also a way of knowing a poem. Thanks to David Sellers’s guidance and to the imagination, care, and collaboration of the whole group, this initiative succeeded in several ways: it produced fifty stunning little volumes, engaged in hands-on study of print history and book-making, and showcased the Princeton English Department’s formidable poets. Johnson hopes to continue the Graduate Letterpress Workshop in the future, so stay tuned for more poetry broadsides.