Discovering the Faber Letterpress
As one of the world's great literary and arts publishers, Faber has a fine print tradition.
As one of the world’s great literary and arts publishers, Faber has a fine print tradition.
In today’s age of digital evolution in publishing, it is important to recognise the craft of print in how we think and publish. We’re proud to say that we’re the only publisher to own a letterpress, as far as we know, and this gives us unrivalled opportunities to print, teach and innovate in ways that have been lost or forgotten by large parts of our industry.
Faber’s Operations Director, Nigel Marsh, begins the story: “In 2013 Faber were looking for interesting ways in which to assert our identity and independence in a market that was being disrupted by new technology. As well as engaging fully with digital publishing we also wanted to retain a strong connection to the crafts associated with publishing. Two things happened that helped us achieve this. First, after a tip-off from Ron Costley, the Faber designer from 1988 to 2005, we found the Model Printing Press No. 3 which we believe to be used by Berthold Wolpe who worked at Faber from the 1940s through to the 1970s. Wolpe was a distinguished calligrapher, typographer, type designer, book designer and illustrator. He was a very influential figure who helped establish Faber’s reputation for design and illustration. The press itself was found next to the lift shaft in relatively good condition. It was restored by Jack Murphy, Production Manager at Faber, and is ready for use once again.”
Discover more of Berthold Wolpe’s classic Faber covers here.
Jack Murphy continues: “Faber’s decision to buy a letterpress was the culmination of various strands of thought in the company. We have always produced a significant number of finely printed limited editions, especially of poetry, and had started to produce more elaborate volumes. We also became aware of the resurgence of letterpress printing and the book arts. With Faber’s strong brand generally, and particularly our design and production heritage, it seemed we were in a unique position to explore the possibilities of letterpress printing as part of a modern general publishing business. The other element that made the letterpress idea possible was our relationship with the London Centre For Book Arts (LCBA), where members of Faber’s production department had begun some printing courses. Having access to their expertise and facilities made the purchase of the press possible.
Nigel goes on to say: In the Summer of 2013, Faber bought a second hand Korrex Berlin proofing press from a dealer in Frankfurt. We had it shipped over, restored and installed at the LCBA. We are now able to use this press to produce short run high quality printed work, as well as a training and educational resource for those connected to Faber.”
Jack concludes: “We bought the Faber letterpress from a man called Herbert Wrede. It needed extensive refurbishment by one of the last remaining specialist letterpress engineers in the country, Basil Head. The hope is that we will use it for training, but also for the production of small-scale limited publications for sale (broadsides, pamphlets for example) and printed ephemera for other purposes (postcards, invitations, bookmarks, flyers) and for our Faber Members programme. It’s still very much a work in progress and integrating it into the flow of a modern publishing company is a challenge, but the possibilities are endless and it is something that is greatly in keeping with Faber’s identity as it currently exists and gives us a tangible connection to our illustrious past.”
In Autumn 2013, Faber commissioned illustrations and worked with Daljit Nagra, Jo Shapcott, Alice Oswald and Simon Armitage to produce 4 poetry broadsides. These were all printed on the Faber Korrex Berlin press.
Find out more about our Masterclasses in association with the LCBA, offering letterpress and book binding day courses to Faber Members.