Dirty Hands, Clear Head

It’s 11:30 P.M. I’m at the press, having just finished a group project in which my partner and I had to print a blue A onto a piece of paper, directly upon a red A which was previously printed there.

This, like the projects that have come before, is a long and detail-oriented task requiring setting the type, printing, measuring, realigning, printing, more measuring, more realigning, a long process of trial and error.

The first trials were way off.


But as we adjusted and readjusted, we managed to get closer.


And then suddenly, miraculously,


We got a perfect 24 pt. blue Garamond a eclipsing a red 24 pt. Garamond a.

What a feeling of accomplishment. What a beautiful little letter.



When my partner pulled our last available trial sheet from the press and said “We’ve done it” I really understood the satisfaction of printing – the hard work that creates a job well done. Instant gratification. A beautiful end product ready in a matter of moments. Perfect little letters.


After that completed project, I took to my tray full of type, left over from a previous project. I set a paragraph describing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing process. A randomly selected passage, a set of words on a page that became disassociated from their meaning as I sought to recreate them with the delicate pieces of lead type.

F Scott

However, what is made must come apart, and it isn’t as simple as tearing the type apart and leaving it in a jumbled mess. Each letter, each character, each space has it’s rightful slot in it’s rightful drawer. It is our duty as responsible novice printers to make sure those letters get to their respective homes, so that those who come after us will have the same (relative) ease we’ve had in setting the text in the first place.

So I got to work, putting each letter in each slot. Slow. Careful.

I got into a rhythm. A sense of calm, where I had but one focus in the world – get the type in the right place.

By the end of it all, my hands were dirty, covered with the marks of lead and ink that had stained them previously. But I was surrounded by a calm I’d missed for a long while.


With that, I’m off for a well-deserved sleep. Thanks for reading. 



Published by Nico '16

I'm an upcoming senior at Colorado College and a spoken word poet active in the local Colorado Springs community. I'm taking the Letterpress and Book Arts summer class. It's pretty great.