York Printing Studio
Help us get the Thin Ice Press onto solid ground!
Staff and students in the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature need your help to launch the Thin Ice Press. We’re building a fully operational printing studio, packed with presses from across the centuries, and featuring a unique replica wooden common press at its heart. We’ll be recording and preserving craft knowledge from our partners and collaborators – who says the book is dead?! And students and members of the public will get the chance to work with staff and visiting printers to explore the wonders of letterpress and produce distinctive and beautiful publications.
Why Thin Ice Press?
In the winter of 1739, the River Ouse froze over. An enterprising York printer, Thomas Gent, wrapped some equipment in a blanket and headed out onto the ice. Despite some ominous creaking and cracking, and a few nervous customers, he did a roaring trade printing souvenir broadsides, complete with the immortal words, ‘Printed on the frozen Ouse’.
One of Thomas Gent’s printing presses still survives, although in very poor condition. Thanks to the generosity of Scarborough Museums Trust, the Gent press has a new, temporary home here at the University of York. As well as setting up a working letterpress studio we’re going to be studying this historic wooden press in detail, and building an accurate, working reproduction. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate York’s long and important printing history – and to bring it back to life!
An alliance between staff and students has set this project in motion, and we’re working together to bring something new to the university and to the city. Our vision is to students in English and our partner departments hands-on experience of printing and publication, igniting a passion for the history of print, the craft that goes in to making books, and the shaping influence of presses and pressworkers on the literature we love.
But we can’t do it without your help! Your donations will turn the Thin Ice Press into a reality, opening up amazing opportunities to our students and to a wider public, bringing new and beautiful books and prints into the world, and preserving and sustaining a craft history that we’re in danger of losing.
Where will the money go?
We’ve already bought four printing presses – from a baby table-top Adana to a mammoth iron Columbian—as well as a whopping 275kg of type (Bembo, since you ask!), all thanks to generous funding from the university. However, while the presses are, of course, the main expense, without considering the other components we won't be able to make the most of what our new presses have to offer.
£300 will buy us a big bit of stone (really big!). This will be our ‘imposing stone’, where we put type into the formes prior to printing. Legend has it that printers used to have their imposing stone made out of marble, so that when they died, they could have it repurposed as their gravestone.
£500 will buy us an extremely specialised spindle and nut, of a kind that hasn’t been made in 200 years!
£1500 will pay for a blacksmith to craft the metal parts of our replica press.
£3300 will let us pay The Wonder of Wood to hone some very large pieces of timber into the parts of a working replica press (we’ve already paid for the wood – high-quality, British oak and elm).
But why stop there?
£500 will stock us with some unique, rag-based paper, so we can do experiments in historical printing.
£800 will buy us a second-hand stock of Perpetua type, to spice things up a bit, and branch out from our beautiful Bembo!
£900 will pay for a microprocessor-driven humidifier and dehumidifier, to keep the historic Gent press perfectly preserved.
£1500 will let us trial a printer-in-residence scheme, welcoming an experienced letterpress printer to the university to share their skills with our staff and students, as well as a wider public.
Let’s get really ambitious!
The sky’s the limit! Any further money we raise will help us to maintain our equipment and keep the printing studio running. And it will help us employ a printer – someone who will research and practice ancient craft techniques, and keep the beauty of bookmaking alive for our students, and for generations to come.
Find us here
Want to learn more? Find us on Instagram @thinicepress and follow our blog at https://thinicepress.org/ .
You can find out more about the team behind the printing studio at https://thinicepress.org/the-team/.
Help us press on!
Want to be a part of this printing revolution but can’t afford to splash the cash? We’d like everyone to be as excited about this as we are, so if you want to spread the love then please share this page! We really want to make a good impression, so please do link to us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or leave our details on your neighbour’s doormat or in your boss’s pigeon hole.