Eight Interesting Facts About Letterpress

letterpress_blocks2Interested 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 …

 

 

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. John Bushell introduced letterpress printing to Canada in 1752, in the newspaper format. He started the Halifax Gazette which became Canada’s first newspaper.
  4. Iron presses were introduced in 1800 and could print a larger area with less effort than the wooden presses they replaced.
  5. 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.
  6. Printers organised capital letters in a separate case above the small letters; this practice led to the terms uppercase and lowercase.
  7. 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.
  8. Metal type is formed from an alloy of metal, tin and antimony, and cast from matrices in a mould.

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