on friday lynne and i went treasure hunting in a printshop that closed this past august. when lynne told me about it, i was expecting to go to a little printshop run out of the garage of some guys house. so i was quite surprised when i found the correct address and it looked more like an old elementary school than a print shop!! so we ventured into the building through the shipping and receiving door and it was dead silent and no people were around. it looked like the place had been out of business for 10 years, not 6 months. so after a fair amount of wandering and loudly saying hello in a questioning tone we came upon the offices. the offices on the other hand just looked like the staff was off for the weekend (even tho it was a friday). and in the offices we found marv, the owner, sporting a large brimmed cowboy hat and a nascar jacket all the while working on a fancy macbook. marv showed us around a bit, and took us to the room that had the old letterpress equipment in it, then let us have the run of the place while he went back to work. they hadn’t used the letterpress equipment in about 30 or 40 years, so i think they had gotten rid of a lot of it, or it was misplaced and lost along the way. we did find a few treasures after digging through a lot of grimy stuff. here is most of what i got, except for the flat file, which is still in the car and a few drawers of type that lynne has, because they wouldn’t fit into my car.
the cabinet to the left holds several drawers of lead type. there were about 2 complete fonts that came in the cabinet as well as some spacing material. below is a drawer of lead type, the font is broadway, and a close up.
the shop was filthy! it also smelled very strongly of gas fumes, solvents, and spilled inks. it was also a mess. they had sold a lot of their larger machinery in the earlier months. we went into the pre press room and found the mother load of flat files! huge ones, small ones, all filled with relics of the printing past. the one i decided was meant for me was filled with old paste ups and rubylith.
below is s type high key. it lets you measure if something is the same height as lead type for printing, lynne said this was the best treasure we found!
as we were searching i kept seeing small personal momentos left behind, such as the family photo mousepad, a picture of someone’s dog, or the half eaten bag of chips and two beers left in a filing cabinet next to some heavy machinery. it really made me think of all of the jobs that were lost when this place closed, they must have employed a ton of people. the building is over 84,000 square feet, a catacomb of a building where they did everything in house. printing, binding, die cuts, foil stamping, mailings. it made me think of all those people out of work, years in the printing industry, in a slowly dying profession. all of those craftspeople and master printers whose art and skill will die with them. maybe as those skills are dying out there will be a resurgence of interest and we will return again to a reverence for craftsmanship and a system of learning from those who have been employing their craft for years, instead of replacing them with a cheaper, younger, or sometimes computerized model. i had some mixed emotions about personally profiting off of someone else’s troubles, but at least this stuff wasn’t getting scrapped, and marv seemed happy that we wanted to buy it, so off to a new home it went. i am sure this type was manufactured before even my parents were bore, but i hope to put it to good use.