Interested in finding out more about the rich history of letterpress? Always wondered where the phrase “mind your Ps and Qs” comes from? Then this guide is for you …
- Letterpress is a form of relief printing that originated in the 15th century and was the primary form of printing and communication for more than 500 years.
- In the west, Johannes Gutenberg is credited with inventing the first printing press in the mid-1400s. His hand press was used to print 180 copies of the Bible, 48 of which remain intact today.
- John Bushell introduced letterpress printing to Canada in 1752, in the newspaper format. He started the Halifax Gazette which became Canada’s first newspaper.
- Iron presses were introduced in 1800 and could print a larger area with less effort than the wooden presses they replaced.
- The origin of the phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs” was advice printers gave to their apprentices so they didn’t mix up their backwards-facing lowercase ps and qs while constructing their type.
- Printers organised capital letters in a separate case above the small letters; this practice led to the terms uppercase and lowercase.
- Due to uneven cooling, large type could not be cast from metal and was cut from wood instead. Cutting wood type was a slow and mechanised process in the 1820s.
- Metal type is formed from an alloy of metal, tin and antimony, and cast from matrices in a mould.