If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest or Etsy, you know letterpress printing is back in a big way. Efficiency, speed and economy of new technologies nearly drove the 500-year-old practice to extinction, but the craft has risen from the garbage heaps of discarded metal and wood type thanks to enduring aesthetic appeal and the devotion of enthusiasts like Andrew Rippeon.
“Before leaving New York, I got notice through various channels that there was some printing equipment in a basement. The house was going to be sold, and the equipment needed to be removed. Thus far, all those who had expressed interest had failed to follow through. I arrived with a truck and a flashlight.” Rippeon, a visiting assistant professor of writing, brought his find to Davidson and set up the college’s first Letterpress Lab in the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center. The lab has grown, with a major donation from Charlotte-based Crayton-Heritage, and Rippeon’s recent Faculty Study and Research Fund award to bring a Civil War-era iron handpress to the college. A poet and printer, Rippeon’s “Book History, Arts, Culture” course examines the status of the printed object in the 20th and 21st centuries.