Here is one of my “poems” if you can call it that, which I decided to typeset using metal Bodoni—an arduous process spread over two days.
The typesetter that lead the typography workshop said that I was remarkably fast and that I seemed to have a talent for it, but having spent quite a few hours typesetting just a single page with centered text, I developed a deep appreciation and admiration for ancient typesetters and book printers, and the patience and craft that goes into this.
It can happen so fast that you inadvertently put an s upside-down, or end up using a Times New Roman g that ended up in the Bodoni case. I believe I also caught a Garamond letter. You often don’t discover these things—or an opportunity to use an ffi ligature—until you’ve done a test print.
The end result is perhaps not as beautiful as it could have been. I think I might have used too much ink, but having tested it with less ink as well, some of the letters wouldn’t print in that condition. Perhaps the printing press was not ideal, or some other variable in the process that wasn’t optimal. But I think the prints are beautiful in their own right—imperfections and all.
And I cherish this letterpress print for the experience it is representative of, and the joy I experienced during the process. As modern typographers, it’s easy to forget how much labor and craft was involved in things that now take only minutes to set up digitally.