Friday, February 18, 2011

Big News from Boston

This is a guest post from Alexis, a friend of Gilah Press + Design. Thanks, Alexis!

What do you get when you combine dozens of linotype machines and letterpresses, thousands of drawers full of lead type, boxes and boxes of etchings and seals, and about a billion other historical and contemporary printmaking accouterments?

Depends on whom you ask. According to the City of Boston, you get a million-dollar-per-year expenditure, which is why the city recently decided to shut down its municipal print plant and auction off the contents. The equipment has been divided into 200 separate lots to be auctioned on February 24, and all of them can be viewed pre-auction here. There's everything from a four-color Heidelberg to a hand-operated platen press, a six-foot linotype machine to a lot of over a million sheets of paper. The most fun lot includes engraved likenesses of Boston public officials, a block declaring "The City of Boston" in Old English font, a cigar box full of official city seals, and thousands of lead type sets. There is also an antique phone booth, for some reason (sold separately).

According to printmaking enthusiasts, of course, the sum of these parts is something wonderful and golden and good, and it ought to be preserved. The big question is what the purchasers of these items will ultimately decide to do with them. Much of the equipment is still contemporary and has practical, industrial value, but a lot of it is outmoded as far as large-scale production is concerned and has value only as part of the small-press revival movement, as part of an antiques collection, or as scrap metal.

So are letterpress lovers going to claim this type and keep it in use, or will it ultimately be relegated to a museum or, worse, a foundry? When asked his opinion, former City Council president Lawrence S. DiCara, whose face is depicted in one of the engravings, summed it up thus: "I think I'm far too young to be considered a historical relic."