Letterpress Treasures from the Common Press

The Common Press was founded at the University of Pennsylvania on January 17, 2006, the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth. As such, you would be right if you guessed that the “Ben” below is, in fact, in reference to Benjamin Franklin (2006, created by students at the Common Press).

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The Common Press was conceived as an interdisciplinary project by the Kelly Writers House; the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts; and the University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts program, to create an environment encouraging collaboration among students with an emphasis on working among digital and analog design, writing, and image making. Located in the printmaking facility of the Fine Arts program, the press houses equipment spanning over two centuries including several antique presses, lead and wooden type, and wood cuts and photogravure plates.

Common Press printed projects and ephemera, 1998-2016, Print Coll. 37, includes broadsides, posters, flyers, postcards, cards, and chapbooks, and the projects were created using a variety of printing processes and techniques. Event posters include the one below, printed using charcoal (2010, created by Sophie Hodara and Matt Neff).

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Over the years, the press has formed long-standing relationships with local institutional partners including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Wharton Esherick Museum, the Print Center, and the Institute of Contemporary Art– an example of which is shown below (2012, created by Mark Owens).

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The projects show a variety of printing techniques and image styles– see details below of two striking examples from 2010 (at left, created by students at the Common Press), and 2007 (at right, created by Matt Neff).

 

 

The projects also feature pieces of captured language, as well as famous sayings, as in the two examples below– at left (2006, created by students at the Common Press), a bit of wisdom from Benjamin Franklin, and at right (2008, created by students at the Common Press), a snippet of overheard conversation.

 

 

If these images have inspired you to embark upon your own letterpress project, I’ll leave you with this final sentiment, below (2012, created by Marianne Dages).

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This collection is now open for research use.