Letterpress Printing in Kreuzberg

Last March when Oliver and I came to Berlin we happened upon the Kreuzberg Museum, a delightful little museum of a Berlin neighbourhood. On the first floor of the museum is a working letterpress print shop, and it was there that I got my first taste of letterpress printing. It seemed only appropriate, thus, that after a year spent delving into printing, on this visit to Berlin I should return to the scene of the crime and do some actual printing there.

Forces coalesced to make this possible: my friend Igor generously sent himself out as an advance team last month and established that such an endeavour might be possible, and then he and I returned yesterday to seal the deal.  The printer was extremely accommodating, agreeing to let an unknown Canadian of no demonstrable skill loose in his print shop.

And so this morning my friend Luisa – also in town for Cognitive Cities – and I took the 10 minute walk from my apartment to the print shop, made our introductions, choose a typeface and a nice, solid old German platen press, and set out to do some printing. The printer was around to help if we needed it, but mostly let us fumble our way along; fortunately printing in German on a German letterpress isn’t a lot different than printing in English on a British letterpress.

My goal was to produce a set of German “flash cards” for Oliver – two cards printed with each word to allow him to play a memory game and, with luck, to learn the meaning of the words. It was a labour-intensive project, as it involved setting type and printing 20 individual words. Fortunately Luisa, a quick study, was a great help all the way through (she managed to print business cards for herself and her partner while she was at it), and four hours later we emerged with the memory game set and printed. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

The type I choose was a very pleasant, heavy 20 pt. serif face; I printed on a a package of “karteikarten” I bought on Tuesday night around the corner at a Kreuzberg paper store for 1.95 EUR. Here’s the story in photos:

List of Words to Print

Type Case

Word in the Chase

Rolling out the Ink