Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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letterpress printing

Any printing produced from a raised, or relief, surface, as distinct from planographic or intaglio printing. It employs type or plates, or any letter or image cast or engraved in relief on a suitable surface. The ink is applied to the printing surface which is above all nonprinting areas or spaces (the exact opposite of gravure or intaglio printing). Impressions are then made by pressing the paper against a flat area of type or plate, e.g., on a platen press, by the pressure of a cylinder rolling across a flat area of type, as on a flat-bed cylinder press, or by having the flat printing area stereotyped (molded into a curved form with cast metal) against which another (impression) cylinder revolves carrying the paper web, as in newspaper (rotary web) printing. Flat sheets may also be printed by the rotary method by having the printed areas electrotyped, i.e., duplicated in a copper or other metal plate, and then curving the plate to fit a cylinder.

Letterpress printing includes both hand-set and machine composition.

Foundry type, cast in individual pieces, is used in hand composition, whereas in machine composition the type may be cast in slugs of equal length or measures by linecasting machines. such as the linotype or intertype, or cast in a single piece of type, as in the monotype machine. The advantages of singletype composition are quick correction of individual letters, flexibility in spacing between letters, and the relative ease by which any portion of a line may be increased or decreased to obtain a justified right-hand margin.

Letterpress printing is the oldest, and still the more commonly used, method of printing; it is employed for practically all newspaper printing, as well as the printing of many periodicals and books. It is capable of producing both very fine and very cheap results, in either very short (e.g., 750-copy) or very long (e.g., 250,000-or-so-copy) runs. It is considered the standard with which other printing methods are compared. (17 , 316 )

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