One thing that I grew accustomed to while working at the bindery was how easily I could create professional-quality lettering in my work. I was lucky enough to have kind coworkers who were willing to not only set type for me, but also show me how the machines worked.
My first bindery operated a lot of old machinery. (Like, don’t-get-too-close-or-you-could-lose-a-hand machinery.) One machine in particular that brought us books from all over to be custom type set: The Ludlow.
The Ludlow Typograph is a hot metal typesetting system. The machine actually held molten metal, which took hours to heat and melt. (Which costs a pretty penny, I am sure.) Choosing fonts, kerning, and any other details of the stamp were all arranged by hand. We had drawers and drawers of brass type in any font style or size you could want. Arranged methodically into the chase, the chase was then inserted into the Ludlow.
Now, the brass type that is used is actually a mold for the Ludlow to shoot the molten metal into, creating the “slug,” or metal stamp. See what I mean by don’t-get-too-close-or-you-could-lose-a-hand? Wait until I tell you about the giant blades on the paper cutters!
Why do I love this type of stamping? The heat from the press molds the paper/cloth/board to the slug. Similar to letterpress, it embosses the paper. The grey roll in this image is a foil you can use to color the stamping. Foils can come in any color you can image, even my favorite: glittery ones. The difference between hot metal stamping and letterpress, however, is that letterpress stamping isn’t always possible on all book covers depending on the cloth or board used.
This type of stamping isn’t really feasible for my work at home, as hot metal stamping is commonly done with giant presses. So I turned to an assortment of old wooden letterpress letters I have. Like a stamp, I get to have clean and interesting type in my books again. I love the look of the perfectly carved letters with my imperfect hand stamping.
How do you add lettering to your handmade books?