Watch People Make Books the Old-Fashioned Way

On Feb. 10, Business Insider published a video on “How Books Are Handmade At The Last Printing Press Of Its Kind In The US.” Is it truly the last printing press of its kind? It might be, even as other people are still printing books using vintage technology. Regardless, it’s fascinating to watch people make books the old-fashioned way.

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Arion Press

If you are a book aficionado, into craftsmanship, or just like unique things, you’ll definitely want to view this video. It’s professionally produced and is more like a mini-documentary than a news clip. And it’s certainly neat to see a company doing something that is nearly a lost art. Here’s how Business Insider summarizes the video.

Arion Press is the last printing press in the US where books are handmade from start to finish. Using machines and techniques that date back to the 1800s, these books can take years to make and cost up to $10,000 to buy. Set against the tech hub backdrop of San Francisco, this institution helps keep the traditional craft of letterpress printing alive.

The Last of Its Kind?

But is it truly the last printing press of its kind? I don’t know. I guess it depends on how one defines “of its kind.” Back in March of 2019, CBS News reported on Larkspur Press.

In our world of speed, step back into the world of … slow, the world of Gray Zeitz, who started Larkspur Press more than 40 years ago, down the road in rural Monterey, Kentucky. Larkspur’s authors, including some of the finest poets from Kentucky, understand it may take a while to get their books printed – a year-and-a-half to two years.

“Why do they come? Because of the quality of the work,” Zeitz said.

The love of this work goes directly from heart to hand. “I love it, I love it,” Zeitz told correspondent Barry Petersen. “The work here, you can use your hands, you have to use your mind. It’s the total package.”

The type is set by hand, one letter at a time.

The 1915 press is fed by hand, one sheet at a time.

Then the pages are sewn together;then the binding of the first editions of 300 to 500 … all done by hand.

And finally, quality control – by the touch of a hand.

(RELATED: The Best: American Craftsman Produces Parchment)

So check out how people make books the old-fashioned way and feel free to leave comments below.

Top Image: Screen capture of Business Insider video.

Contributing Editor
About the Author
Paul Hair is an author who writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and as a ghostwriter. His fascinating books are available at his Amazon Author Page. Help support him by purchasing one or more of his titles.

3 comments on “Watch People Make Books the Old-Fashioned Way

  1. Tim Colomba says:

    That was fascinating to watch. Just to think about how many things used to be produced in such tedious ways. Our efficiency is a marvel, but it does strip away value, in a way. Think of how videos are just thrown away these days, but to produce a visual piece used to require the input of several hands to assemble a small scene.

    Makes you wonder if what we consider craft now will become obsolete.

    1. Michael Loftus says:

      that’s a great question! What are people doing today, that we’ll look back on and wonder how they did it?

  2. Paul Hair says:

    Excellent point, Tim!

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