Reviving linotype

Vintage lighting brand Urban Cottage Industries has teamed up with Print Club London to launch a range of letterpress prints and cards made using linotype.

Vintage lighting brand Urban Cottage Industries has teamed up with Print Club London to launch a range of letterpress prints and cards made using linotype.

UCI owns one of the few remaining linotype collections in the UK. The machines were previously owned by a printing company in Halifax, which UCI took over when it was facing receivership in 2011.

“We found the linotype machines almost by accident – we used the printers for our letterpress printing and learned about Linotype and hot-metal typsetting on our visits there,” says UCI’s James Wilson.

“In 2011, the firm was a week away from calling in the receivers. The advice was to let the firm go bust and buy what we wanted from the receiver, but that’s not the way we do business, so we took a gamble and bought the firm, liabilities and all. We then decided to save the machines from scrap because we knew there must be a market for products made using the technology – the typography it produces has some unique qualities,” he adds.

UCI has since moved the firm’s linotype and typesetting machinery to an old trouser factory in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, and uses it to produce slugs of type for personalised Moleskine notebooks. The company is also selling letterpress cards and prints featuring designs made by illustrators at Dalston screen printing studio Print Club.

“We’ve known [UCI founders] Stan Wilson and Sophie Gollop for many years – they set up the business from their flat in Dalston before they moved up north, so they were locals,” says Print Club co-founder Kate Higginson.

“We have thought about producing cards before from our screen prints but taking something from a handmade product to a digital one just never sat well with us – it didn’t feel like it gave justice to something so beautiful and close to the artist’s hand. However, when Stan approached us and suggested using the Heidelbergs to produce these prints it made sense,” she adds.

“The artists have been very much involved in the process, and each card is in the hands of a technician at UCI, who treats them in the same manner as we would a print. It’s not just mass produced by a machine – there’s a man running that machine and lovingly attending to it. We have a huge archive of prints that have sold out and cant be produced as original signed prints again but the wonder of this is that now we can produce cards and people can still enjoy them.”

Prints and equipment were on display at a launch party in Dalston on Thursday night, where 800 visitors watched linotype demonstrations and tried their hand at letterpress, customising cards designed by Print Club creative director Rose Stallard. UCI technicians also talked to visitors about linotype’s development and its widespread use in publishing and poster printing from the late nineteenth century until the 1970s.

Above: Nina Simone print by Anthony Peters, 24-Seven-365 by Alice Stallard, Lionness by Margaux Carpentier, Richard Burton’s Nightmare by Pure Evil. Letterpress cards featuring each print are available to buy at Urban Cottage Industries.

At Dalston’s Rio Cinema, UCI screened Douglas Wilson’s Kickstarter funded film, Linotype. The documentary offers a poignant look at the history of linotype and the people working to preserve the trade in the US:

UCI has bought two more linotype machines since acquiring its first collection in 2011, and is planning to launch more stationery, invitations and other letterpress products in the future. For more info visit urbancottageindustries.com or printclublondon.com

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