I had the honor and pleasure to be a student at Monotype University 6 along with William Bentley, Paul Maravelas, David Krenz, and Bill Welliver and taught by Rich Hopkins, Mike Anderson, Jim Walczak, and Dan Jones. It was an intense week but it far exceeded my expectations.
The beginning was a little rough. William rode with me from Alexandria, Virginia and we had four, five gallon buckets of type metal, over 200 lbs., in the trunk of a Toyota Corolla. I made the mistake of going the scenic route on Route 50 up and down the mountains and there were indications that the rear shocks were going to fail. When we arrived I felt like I was “bringing coal to Newcastle” as Rich had several 55 gallon drums full of type metal. I should quickly add that I felt differently at the end of the week when I filled the trunk again with many pounds of finished type. We also experienced very hot weather, which is unusual for Terra Alta, West Virginia as Rich kept pointing out, and repeated violent thunderstorms.
My project was to cast 24 point Hadriano on the Thompson. Hadriano was a challenge because on many of the letters, for example the capital H, the two serifs do not line up. This played havoc with our alignment as William and I worked through the first letters under Mike Anderson’s exacting eye. Ultimately, we had to do most of the lower case letters on the Orphan Annie caster. This was quite a different experience as Dan Jones wanted production at a fast clip and he had William and I literally running back and forth to the alignment microscope and shouting the results. Then Jim Walczak took over on the OA and Jim really likes to tinker with the machine, so production stopped while we learned how to take the machine apart and make adjustments.
Each instructor had a vastly different approach to casting type and that was good to see as each of us would have to develop our own style. Rich was working with Bill and Paul on the composition caster and one evening demonstrated the composition caster that is controlled by the Macintosh computer. To demonstrate the traditional keyboard composition caster Rich keyed in a poem by Jett Whitehead, a rare book dealer in Michigan, that I had available. I brought that type home and last November he commissioned me to print 250 Christmas cards for him. That type is still in great shape.
I am embarrassed to say that as recently as three years ago, and I first printed in college 34 years ago, I thought the only letterpress type available was old, filthy, and worn. I did not know that new type was being produced. And here I was at Mono U enjoying the thrill of running a Thompson caster myself and producing beautiful, clean, sharp type. I also discovered it is more difficult than I thought it would be to produce good type. It is more an art than a craft as there are many things that can go wrong. Dan said that you can produce a good font the second time you cast that font. But we only had one shot and we made a lot of mistakes.
It was an exhausting week since we lived together in a rental house and stayed up late “talking type” after a long day of casting. The instructors were patient and put in a longer day than we did. Mono U started on a Sunday and it was Wednesday night before I had a chance to call my wife and say we got there safely.
William did a great job printing our diplomas on Rich’s Vandercook 4. Paul had the draft of his book on basic letterpress printing for us to see. It is excellent and it is now available from Oak Knoll Books. I also want to thank Rich and his wife Lynda for opening their home to the ultimate “home invasion” and for their generosity and kind heartedness. My diploma is framed on the wall at the Railway Station Press and I am as proud of that diploma as any other I have received.