The Draigsffau Press

The Draigsffau Press was inspired by Krys taking a letterpress printing course from George Kane at the Cowell Press at UC Santa Cruz. Elsa helps a bit with the letterpress at Draigsffau and also has experience preparing material and running an offset press. Don works on a Renaissance-style press called the Roaring Dragon (which, between Renaissance Faires and press shows, can be found in his living room).

Physically, the Draigsffau Press is a Chandler & Price letterpress dating from about the 1940s. It does not require electricity to run, though having a motor attached does speed things along.

We have a few fonts of Goudy Text type, and some Wedding Text to use for emphasis. For each page, we assemble the words a line at a time, letter by letter. We put the lines of type into a block and bind it around the edges until another page worth is done. Illustrations are usually hand carved linoleum or wood blocks, set either as full pages or as spots. In any event, we place the blocks of type and illustrations into a frame, bounded and spaced by more wood blocks, called "furniture", and tighten the whole thing up using coigns so it can be lifted by the frame without anything falling out.

We print pages two at a time on smallish paper rather than the traditional eight to a sheet, partly because we don't have very much type. Ink is applied to the inkplate, a round platform which the rollers cross, carrying the ink down to thinly coat the type. The type is pressed against the paper and an impression is made. The first few are "proofs" which we check for errors, literally proofreading. Errors are corrected until the pages are perfect, then we begin the actual print run. Our print runs are very small, anywhere from about twenty to one hundred copies. Once the pages are printed, they can be assembled into signatures, sewn, and bound into book form or left as single sheet fliers or broadsides. The tedious part is cleaning the press and the type and sorting it back into the type drawer at the end of the run, yet holding a hand printed sheet which you have worked hard to make carries a special satisfaction.

On the modern side, Elsa published the Razing the Stakes newsletter on our Dell desktop computer using Word 6.0 under Windows 3.1. Artwork was either generated on the computer or scanned in using a Logitech ScanMan handheld scanner, and was edited, sometimes pixel by pixel, in Fotocolor. Layout, formatting and pagination were done, and masters were printed on the HP IIP+ Laser Jet printer. We took the masters to Kinko's for xerographic reproduction, then stapled and mailed the hundred or so copies. Since that time the CPU and software have been upgraded. We are now running Word 97 on Windows 95, though Elsa can still be heard complaining that she liked the 3.1 interface much better and preferred the old version of Word before Microsoft screwed up the way images are positioned on the page.


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© 1999 by Elsa Die Löwin and Christopher M. Albrecht