We were so pleased that everyone liked last week's book-dorkery post! So we are making it an Unofficial Series! Here's how you print with a letterpress, as demonstrated by Keegan Wenkman, of Keeganmeegan & Co. This press is a Chandler and Price New Style, from the 1920s; it's what's called a platen or clamshell press, as opposed to cylinder presses like a Vandercook. The item being printed here is a business card, but people used (and still use) these presses to print books too.
He is printing from a polymer plate (the yellowish piece of plastic he's putting into the press at the beginning of the video), which is how most modern commercial letterpress printers print jobs: you or a designer sends the printer a digital file, s/he makes the plate from the file, and then prints from the plate. It's much less time-consuming than printing from metal type, which has to be set by hand, and which one must have physical possession of (i.e., if you want to print something in Helvetica, you have to have a forty-pound drawer full of Helvetica in the right size).
If there are more exciting bookmaking processes you would like to hear about, or if you have questions about the video, let us know. We can talk about this stuff FOR A LONG TIME. Enjoy!