Kyle Durrie: Moveable Type: a cross country adventure in letterpress printing
Library of Congress
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Since we first heard of Kyle Durrie’s Moveable Type: a crosscountry adventure in letterpress printing, we knew we wanted to connect her with the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Printing History Association, centered in Washington, DC. Kyle launched her Moveable Type project on KickStarter.com in late 2010. We like to think of our own letterpress studio, Lead Graffiti, as part of an ongoing history of letterpress printing and Kyle’s project was going to spread that current history to thousands of people across the country. As APHA members and/or letterpress printers, you need to know about Kickstarter.com and you should be sure to watch Kyle’s online video.
Her project reached more than double her $8,000 funding target by its January 3, 2011, deadline. She received enough money to buy a 1982 Chevy Step Van; refurbish the inside for both printing and living; stock it with equipment and supplies for a couple hundred demonstrations, workshops, and talks; and a lot of gallons of gas.
After watching her progress from the start in Portland, Oregon, we could see that she would be in the DC area the first week of November. Ray’s widely-traveled daughter, Terre, makes a great observation about traveling. “When you go somewhere, go somewhere there.” Every stop on Kyle’s trip is a story, but we wanted her stop with the Chesapeake Chapter of APHA to rise to the top. So, where do you meet for a talk in Washington, DC, that rises to the top? Hmmm. How about the Library of Congress? Just standing in the place gives me shivers. Talking there would have to be a major moment during her journey. Consulting with Mark Dimunation, Chief of Rare Books, and Dan De Simone, Curator of the Rosenwald Collection, we settled on 4:00pm on Wednesday, November 2.
Kyle was leaving Philadelphia where she had just spent two days and we invited her to spend the night with us in Newark, Delaware, in a nice, warm bed. We started out early Wednesday for a tour of the Lead Graffiti studiio and to offer her a choice of one of our recent Tour de Lead Graffiti poster series prints. A quick early lunch stop at IKEA for Swedish meatballs (one of our rituals for driving to/from Washington), with a detour so we didn’t drive with a propane tank into the Baltimore Tunnel, and we arrived in the capitol.
Keep in mind that parking a 22-foot-long white truck close to a government building like the Library of Congress is essentially impossible. Dan De Simone carried the day by reserving two spaces in a public parking lot only two blocks from the Library. That made guest visits to tour the truck easily accessible after Kyle’s talk.
To make sure there were plenty of notable experiences for Kyle, our first stop in the LOC was to get her a reader’s card, after which we visited the Rare Book Reading Room. As the LOC is a public library, you can request to see almost anything (and maybe absolutely anything) in the collection of 22 gazillion things worth looking at if you are equipped with your reader’s card (you just cannot check things out as that privilege is reserved for members of Congress). We selected three books we thought might create a memorable experience.
We started with Nicolas Janson’s 1470 edition of Eusebius. Janson constructed the first roman typeface on the basis of typographical principles, as opposed to the old manuscript models, and that typeface was first employed in this bookit is stunning.
Our second was Ludovico Arrighi’s (a papal scribe) La Operina from 1522. The small 32-page work printed from woodcuts was the first book promoting the italic script known as Chancery Cursive.
The third item was The Four Gospels from the Golden Cockerel Press. It contains unbelieveably precise typographic illustrations by Eric Gill and Kyle went through it page-by-page. By then it was showtime.
Kyle’s talk to a standing-room only audience of APHA members, Library of Congress staff, students from Corcoran College of Art and Design, and others was heavily illustrated with photos of visits, the truck, and printed examples from Power & Light Press. Moveable Type seems like such a fall-out-of-the-sky idea, but listening to what lead up to the idea was fascinating, especially the connection to music and the earliest versions of traveling presses. The question and answer session afterwards was never going to stop, so we paused it long enough to adjourn to the truck. By the time we got there, about 20 people were already standing there politely waiting for someone to unlock the door. The questions and answers continued.
As the sun set, we opted for a convivial and hot meal at a nearby pub before everyone went their separate ways. You can follow the rest of Kyle’s journey at http://type-truck.com. If you are close to the future path of Moveable Type, you should get in touch and see if you can arrange for Kyle to stop her letterpress truck. You’ll love meeting her.
If you'd like to support this incredible cause any donation to what might end up being something like a 25,000-long trip would be most helpful, I'm sure.
And the next time you are in Washington, DC, plan to visit the Library of Congress and drop into the Great Hall. Get your reader’s card if you don’t have one (takes 10 minutes or less in Room 140 in the Madison Building), and then look at something awesome (Rare Book Reading Room is in the Jefferson Building). Easy as pie.
Text & photos by Ray Nichols, Jill Cypher & Tray Nichols