Presswork: 4 – A Tennyson Tetraptych (Panel 4)

Setting type for panel #4 is pretty much like the other three panels with one significant exception – the text contains a character for which there is no glyph in the face I’m using: a lowercase “e” with a diaeresis above it. The face has several glyphs with umlauts: ä, ö, and ü – (visually, pretty much the same thing) – but no ë.

My first thought was to cut off an umlaut  from one of the accented sorts and put it on top of the “e,” but that proved impractical because of the individual sort widths were too wide. As luck would have it, two “period” sorts in this face are very nearly the same total width as the sort for the lowercase “e,” so it was relatively easy to use blue tape and super glue to align and join the two periods precisely into what can be best described as a free-range diaeresis. 

Trimming ever so slightly with a hand miter brought it to the precise width of the “e” sort, and I then used my Hammond saw to trim the bottom to fit above the “e” glyph. This move was kind of tricky, so I used two double quads as vise jaws in the saw to hold the work securely and accurately. Using the same setup, I trimmed the top of the “e” and used the align-and-superglue trick again to glue the diaeresis to the top of the “e.”  

Using the same setup on the saw, I then trimmed the resulting sort to the correct height (confirmed with a digital height gauge), and it fit right in.

So, in full disclosure, it took three attempts to achieve what I wanted. The first attempt used an umlaut, which proved too wide. The second attempt (using periods) was much better, but I messed up on the last stroke of the hand-mitering operation. So apparently, third time’s the charm.

The final panel is done. It’s now down to 11% moisture content, so I should start trying to figure out how to frame the set of four.

For the record, dampening paper is best done on single-color work. Registration of second and third colors becomes interesting when the paper stretches and shrinks as much as a full pica (1/6 of an inch), depending on moisture content. Printing moisture content varied from 19% to 21%; dry paper is in the 8% to 9% range.

Yes, I bought a moisture meter.

Presswork: 3 – A Tennyson Tetraptych (Panel 3)

July 23, 2023 – As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the background fields were worked out in advance on a page layout program, so setting one is a matter of following a layout and understanding the rules of the pattern. This is a photo of my composition workflow – I set the new form directly from the old one for maximum efficiency.

Printing panel 3 was pretty sweet, since the color purple looks really good on the press.

And here is the finished panel. The intended field symbology references the line “As often thro’ the purple night, below the starry clusters bright…” 

Presswork: 2 – A Tennyson Tetraptych (Panel 2)

July 10, 2023 – I finished panel 2 of the Tennyson Tetrapytch project this week with less trouble than I had on Panel 1. You may remember that I had a second form for the small rubricated initials, built with random leads and slugs, adding up to the same height as the form with black type. This ultimately proved problematic since each lead or slug is imperceptibly oversized in thickness, so the total adds up to more than the black type form. I had to go back and carefully adjust and measure each “line” thickness. In the end, I was able to work it out, but it was a royal pain. To eliminate this problem, I tried a combination of 6 and 12-point slugs (which theoretically add up to the line height of 18 points), but the total form was still slightly oversized due to the incremental size difference. In the end, I had to find enough 18-point slugs to set up the entire form, and it worked.
Overall, the second panel looks like this:

Am I making this up as I go along? Well, sort of. Although each panel design has been laid out on paper in advance, they’re all works in progress until I set them in type. Even then, I may reprint it if I don’t like it enough.

Since I’ve completed two panels, I should probably discuss the field backgrounds a bit.

Each one of the panels is based on a specific part of the four-part poem, and each panel’s background field uses design elements to reflect themes from that part of the poem. As an example, the recurring theme for Panel 1 (shown above) is “Four (gray*) walls, and four (gray*) towers, overlook a space of flowers.” It’s easy to find several instances of the “four towers” surrounded as they are by what are commonly referred to as Fleurons (aka “printer’s flowers”).

*As I’ve previously mentioned, I first printed the panel with a gray background – and found it too monochromatic. I then reprinted it with a green field to suggest the “Long fields of barley and of rye.”

Panel 2 is intended to evoke a blue mirror, referencing the line “And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue.” You will also notice that some elements carry over from panel to panel, which is a function of both design and intent.

Please check back for the final two panels and how I finally arrange them on a wall – right now, that is very much a work in progress.

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