Set the type; lock it in place; ink the press and print. The immediacy of letterpress is that simple. But it's also painstaking and exacting. The process of assembling type letter-by-letter, line-by-line, is almost meditative, because the task must be taken at its own pace — never forced or rushed. This kind of printing goes back more than 500 years. At The North Press we take pleasure in that history and the unique bits and pieces that have evolved to effect the kiss of image to paper.

Rusty North type in composing stick

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Vandercook Model 3

A half century ago, Vandercook proofing presses were commonplace in any commercial printshop. Now they are much sought by artists and printmakers, because they allow flexibility in the process. There's phenomenal control in terms of image positioning and color registration. Add to that the forgiving nature of a flatbed, cylinder press that often invites experimentation. Maybe even flair.

The North Press is the letterpress studio of Ellie Mathews and Carl Youngmann. The press pictured above holds down a corner of a small outbuilding surrounded by towering evergreens at the end of a gravel lane in Port Townsend, Washington. That half-ton of hardware was previously owned by Rusty North, a woman of expansive heart and affection. Hence the name.

Updated May 30, 2021