About folly letterpress
My name is Emma, and I have a passion for letterpress printing and graphic design. After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, with a specialisation in Typography, in 2002, I ventured into teaching.
For the past 17 years, I’ve been educating 11–18-year-olds in Graphic Communication at a local secondary school. I’m privileged to introduce these young minds to letterpress and various relief printing techniques.
Fortunately, I have a dedicated garden studio at my home, where I craft bespoke letterpress pieces.
The Vandercook: A Historical Gem
Meet ‘Vandy’, a cherished possession from my university days. As a student engrossed in the letterpress studio on my degree course, I found myself at the right place when Vandy’s previous owner, who was selling his printing collection due to retirement, reached out to my then-lecturer. Sensing an opportunity, I quickly obtained the owner’s contact details and soon made my way to a suburban street in Surrey to seal the deal.
Pre digital era
Vandy, unfortunately, wasn’t in pristine condition, which likely deterred the university from acquiring her. With a history rooted in Fleet Street before the digital era, she had some parts missing or worn out, and her iron frame showed signs of rust. These imperfections, however, narrated a rich tale. They indicated that she was crafted somewhere between 1910-40, a period when this particular type of cylinder press was produced in America.
A loving restoration
A special thanks to Rod and his dedicated team at Beyond Letterpress in Stroud for their meticulous restoration of the Vandercook. Additionally, I’m deeply grateful to Anne-Marie from ladybonesprint.com in sunny California. Her generosity in sharing engineering drawings enabled us to craft a new inking roller. Interestingly, in 2020, Anne-Marie stood out as the only person I could find online who owned a Vandercook identical to mine. Her invaluable contributions not only streamlined Rod’s restoration process but also saved considerable time and effort.
For many, investing in such a press might seem like a folly, a reckless pursuit. But for me, it was a golden chance to own a piece of history. Folly Letterpress is my ode to this art form, a testament to the magic of traditional printing. Today, the Vandercook serves as a tangible link to printing’s rich past, showcasing the charm of traditional graphics. It’s a pleasure to share this piece of history through the unique prints we create.
The Book Press
In my garden workshop, the sturdy cast iron book press accompanies the Vandercook. Expertly printing notebooks that are too small to fit around the Vandercook’s large cylinder, it’s a reliable companion.
While its original design catered to compressing books during binding, inventive minds have found a new purpose for such beautiful old industrial equipment. This book press now efficiently handles smaller letterpress projects and other relief printing tasks.