Operating a hand press

This homemade video shows the basic operation of the iron hand press; the tympan and frisket hold the paper over the form while the bed is rolled under the platen to make an impression. This is the process as it was done for hundreds of years, usually by two or three press man, often one to operate the bed and platen, one to ink and one to handle paper. Two people can do the work as long as whoever is inking is not handling paper.

Examples of early manuscripts that show the roots of design used for printing can be found on the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Book design requires more than a software program.

Type composition is really a thing of the past. Now we have entering via word processing software, much like typing, to create manuscript pages in digital file formats. Now we have design on the computer which essentially imports / copy fits the word processing into a layout of linked pages with any number of text blocks predetermined in the plan. The standards of a well composed page still apply with regard to all caps, indents, letter and word spacing, rivers, widows and orphans. Much can be done by the person entering text to help with the outcome of the design or composed pages in a book. It makes sense to have someone who can follow composition rules, if they don’t have typesetting experience, so that the designer does not have to do typesetting adjustments beyond normal copy fitting.

What is similar to the days of drawing the design on paper for the compositor and form maker (in the days of hand composing or setting type by hand, monotype and linotype casting machines) to follow, is that we can create text boxes, headers, footers, folios or pagination, columns, margins or marginal text in design programs like InDesign or Quark Xpress. On the page Book Design you can see the chase where metal type is locked into wood or metal furniture creating the form, which is the basic design framework that can be used throughout teh printing of a simple book of text or text with illustrations.

Good or acceptable design is something that almost goes unnoticed, except that it is pleasing to the eye and easy to read. Attention must be given when applying tracking, to avoid kerning or letter space and word space that is too extreme. It helps to understand book design principles when applying columns and baseline grids. Introducing images or illustrations will benefit from understanding and following a system of grids in any layout.