Letterpress printing: past, present, future

The Centre for Printing History & Culture draws your attention to the following call for papers

Letterpress printing: past, present, future

University of Leeds, 19-20 July 2018

Keynote speaker

Johanna Drucker (Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies Department of Information Studies, UCLA)

About the conference

During the twentieth century, printing changed from a craft-based to a technology-led process. The composing room moved from hand- to machine composition, from photo-setting to digital; while the press room shifted from letterpress to off-set lithography and latterly digital methods of production. Technical progress, however, failed to completely usurp traditional printing and today there is a marked increase in those engaged with older methods of production, whether for pleasure, profit, or scholarship. For example, housed in the basement of the School of English at the University of Leeds, there is a range of letterpress machines and moveable type. Originally used to teach bibliography, this facility fell out of use as academic fashions changed. Today it has been resurrected by a new generation of scholars curious to practice craft techniques in order to enhance their understand of the past. Similarly, when the printing industry jettisoned letterpress in favour of contemporary technology, some of the equipment survived and was appropriated by artists as tools for creativity, or salvaged by museums as relics of the past. Some of this historic equipment was requisitioned by a new generation of printers keen to satisfy market demands for traditional printing and often used in tandem with contemporary techniques.

This two-day conference explores the survival, legacy and relevance of letterpress printing in the digital era.


We welcome proposals for papers or for panels that address:

  • the place of letterpress printing today;
  • the legacy of letterpress: practices and equipment;
  • the position of letterpress in contemporary learning and scholarship;
  • the function of letterpress in art and design today;
  • the delights of printing for pleasure;
  • the teaching of letterpress today;
  • the appeal and importance of letterpress today;
  • the role of letterpress in shaping who we think we are;
  • the future of letterpress printing in a digital age.

Proposal for papers

Please send a suggested title, synopsis (400 words) and biography (200 words) via a Word attachment to centrechop@gmail.com by 13 April 2018.

Proposal for panels of three speakers

Please send a suggested title, synopsis of each panel paper (400 words per speaker) and biography (200 words for each speaker) via a Word attachment to centrechop@gmail.com by 13 April 2018.


James Mussell (Centre for the Comparative History of Print, University of Leeds) and Caroline Archer-Parré (Centre for Printing History & Culture, Birmingham City University/University of Birmingham)


Please send queries to centrechop@gmail.com.


This conference is the culmination of the AHRC Research Network ‘Letterpress Printing: past, present, future’, which brings together scholars, printers, and heritage professionals, amongst others, to discuss the role of letterpress.

Caroline Archer-Parré PhD
Professor of Typography

Centre for Printing History & Culture
Faculty of Art, Design & Media
Birmingham City University, Parkside Building, 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham B4 7BD

Telephone: 0121 331 5871
@typetweet  @PrintHistory

Chairman, Baskerville Society
Co-director, Centre for Printing History & Culture
Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham