Segments in this Video

Letterpress: An Obsolete Technology (06:28)


Letterpress is a printing process that uses movable type and a printing press to create prints. It is a tactile and romantic process that has a smell and a sound that is unique to it. New generations are interested by it because it is an obsolete technology.

Letterpress Era (01:59)

Letterpress printing is a process of printing from movable type on a press. It is the heart of letterpress.

Saving Machines from Being Scrapped (02:12)

The old type gets worn out and new type needs to be made, but the amount that's being made now is a tiny sliver of what was made 50, 60, 80 years ago.

Three Stages of Letterpress Printing (05:25)

Letterpress printing has three stages: designing or laying out the piece, assembling the type, and locking it into a form. The form is then moved to a press, where the type is inked and an impression is made on paper. Each piece of type has a history.

Red Door Press (02:45)

The Red Door Press in Des Moines, Iowa, has 20 printing presses.

United States Printing Industry (04:31)

Printing is a great industry to work in because it offers good pay and advancement opportunities. It attracts many young men and women because it is a job with tangible results.

Decline of Letterpress (06:42)

Letterpress was replaced by offset printing in the 1950s, which was, in turn, replaced by digital printing in the 1990s. The printing industry is slowly degrading or disappearing.

Creativity in Art Patterns (03:42)

Old squares of cloth can be made into interesting geometric or non-geometric pattern-quilts.

Life of a Printer (02:22)

Printers are busy working other jobs during the week while attending craft shows and doing custom printing on weekends.

The Best Machines in The World (01:42)

The people who designed and built the printing presses and other printing equipment were brilliant and dedicated, and the equipment is well designed and built to last.

Hatch Show Print (04:59)

Hatch Show Print is a letterpress print shop that has been in operation since 1879. They are known for their show posters, which were used to advertise live entertainment in the South. Designers need to look for new opportunities to find and acquire new typefaces.

An Antique Print Collector (02:01)

An antique typeface collector offers to sell a set of antique typefaces to a printer for $36, but the printer is unsure if the typefaces are worth the price.

Handset Type (02:03)

One collector has 2,000 fonts of handset type for print jobs.

Antique Presses (02:40)

A printer has a Chandler and Price 8 by 12, a Chandler and Price 12 by 18, and a Heidelberg 10 by 15 windmill. They also have linoscribes.

Printing Museum in Zion, Ill. (02:58)

Paul Aken opened up a printing museum in Zion, Illinois.

Ampersands (03:48)

A woman printer is working on a series of ampersands and wanted to try to push her idea of a type pictures in a slightly different direction. Instead of creating a traditional letterpress form, she created a form that she can fill with ornaments and type.

Passing Along the Torch (04:37)

The letterpress process has been passed down through the centuries. It is being reintroduced into colleges and institutions across the country. Typefounders were generous with their knowledge and beginners should be too.

Artistic Custodian (04:28)

Matthew Carter is a type designer who has created typefaces such as Georgia, Verdana, and Tahoma. He discusses the importance of typefaces, the history of type, and the future of type design. Carter says Greg Walter bought typecasting machines that might have gone to a museum.

The Family Business (03:59)

The subject matter of this letterpress shop is a man who used to bring his son to his warehouse as a kid to work for free, and then started paying him $5 a day plus lunch.

Lassen Monotype Composition Caster (02:37)

The Lassen Monotype composition caster was introduced in 1904 and was the first typesetting system that digitized type. A computer interface was developed for it in the 21st century that allows for a more accurate and efficient typesetting process.

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company (03:33)

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company started in 1880 and produced wood type until 1992. The Hamilton Wood Type Museum is continuing the tradition and is now making wood type and printing posters.

Restoring an Old Press (05:35)

Tammy and Adam Winn found a Chandler and Price press that they wanted to restore. The crew rescued the press from a scrap pile and moved it up the basement stairs with a tow truck.

Letterpress and Typography (03:09)

Letterpress printing has a history of communicating. Typography used to be a discipline, but now it is more of an art form.

Keeping the Shop Going (05:44)

Hatch Show Print is an iconic letterpress shop that has been in business since 1879. It is currently owned and operated by Justin Atherton, who has been working there since 1984.

Making vs. Buying Typefaces (03:28)

Printers used to have to make their own typefaces, which was a difficult and time-consuming process. Today, they can buy typefaces from companies like Adobe, but printers still need to be skilled in using them.

Letterpress's Future (06:20)

Letterpress is a satisfying, fulfilling and growing printing process.

Credits (00:22)


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Pressing On: The Letterpress Film

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $199.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $299.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $199.95



Wood and metal letters pressed into paper laid the foundation for the modern world. Once essential to communication, letterpress printing unexpectedly thrives in our digital age. Fascinating personalities intermix with wood, metal, and type as young printers save a traditional process in this documentary exploring the remarkable community keeping letterpress alive.

Length: 101 minutes

Item#: BVL274605

ISBN: 978-1-63722-577-6

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Critic’s Choice: Vintage tech finds new audience in documentary Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.”—Los Angeles Times

“It’s a tactile process that some would call obsolete in the computer age—but this film contradicts that belief.”—Film Critic Leonard Maltin

“A salve for technological oversaturation…There is some discussion of the history of the technique, but the focus is on eccentric characters whose passion keeps the form alive.”—New York Times

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.