BY ELIZABETH LICATA
A LOCAL PRINTING COMPANY CHERISHES THE ANTIQUE EQUIPMENT IT ONCE USED
THE OBJECTS ON THIS PAGE MAY look impossibly antiquated,
but many of them were state-of-the-art for hundreds of years,
falling into disuse quite recently. Printing technology changed
only incrementally from the time of Gutenberg in the fifteenth
century (when moveable type became common in Europe)
right up to the invention of offset printing in the mid-twentieth century.
In Buffalo, we are very fortunate to have facilities
that demonstrate printing at its most traditional.
Western New York Book Arts ( wnybac.org) is a
haven for lovers of letterpress, bookbinding,
and screenprinting; classes there make it
possible for participants to create their
own letterpress posters and cards.
Another Buffalo institution, Keller
Brothers & Miller (KBM), located in
Allentown on Franklin Street (
kbmprinting.com) is featured on page 74
of this issue. KBM, founded in 1916,
maintains a small museum (shown
here) of printing equipment. It
features an array of antique letterpress machines, vintage wooden
type cases, printing blocks, inking
equipment, and much more,
including many historic political
It’s only natural that a
publishing company would be
interested in printing traditions.
Although Buffalo Spree is “only”
fifty-two years old, the printing
technology used to create the
first issue of Spree in 1967 would
be very different than that used
today. In 1967, letterpress printing
was still the common technology;
offset as we know it was fairly new.
Many publications used a hybrid of
letterpress and offset lithography, as
Spree did in the early days. It’s likely
that first issue of Spree was produced
in many stages, first typeset using the
“hot type” method, then pasted up with
visual elements, then photographed, and
the resulting images transferred from a plate
to a rubber blanket draped over a cylinder. The
blanket transferred print and images onto the
paper as it was fed into the press.
Today, digital technology has all but eliminated
the prepress steps detailed above, but we still need
printers. That’s a lucky fact for businesses like KBM and
Spree’s printer, Freeport Press.