A Letterpress Calendar for 2024

Leah Rosen is a fourth year Industrial Design and Psychology student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, New York, USA. Since 2020, she has been a Student Assistant in the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection. Her roles vary from setting up the new Cary Pressroom, shelving rare books and handling archival items in the collection. This year Leah was also the Teaching Assistant in RIT’s Letterpress Printmaking course. She initiated a personal letterpress project. Despite her busy schedule, she was not discouraged to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to typesetting and printing a calendar for 2024. She shares her process, challenges, and some valuables lessons. The outstanding outcome speaks for itself.

The 2024 letterpress Calendar by Leah Rosen.

I decided to take on a calendar because I see it as a staple of traditional letterpress. After experimenting with a couple formats on different pages and different typefaces, I found the perpetual calendar and quickly got to composing my form.

Then, I chose the typefaces for each month that felt right to me and were visually balanced. After that, it was chugging through setting 12 months. I began layout and fussed with a couple things like deciding how to balance months that spanned 4/5/6 weeks, and the placement of the ornaments between the months and calendar.

The planning process.

My favorite part was choosing ornaments for the holidays. I think these make an extremely gridded and uniform form feel a bit more broken up and gives some visual interest. I also found that this helped me become much more familiar with our collection – it’s huge, and between this project and my cataloging work, I feel as though I know it a bit better now.

The biggest challenge here was lockup. I initially started in a chase, which I figured would make things easier to move on and off the bed of the Vandercook press. Although the chase fit in the bed empty, once the quoins expanded, the chase didn’t fit. Naturally, I pushed the form down into the bed of the press (mistake #1). I then realized I couldn’t get it off the bed of the press. Uh oh. If I loosened the quoins, I was able to get some movement (mistake #2), so I decided to try to slide the form off the bed and onto a board to support it (mistake #3). It ended up getting completely stuck on the press and thankfully rescued by my letterpress mentor Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, the Cary Associate Curator and Master Printer. The lesson here: NEVER push or shove your form.

After that, it was fairly smooth sailing. I put down the 0 first, then the 4, then the 2s. I wanted to achieve some overlap in the numbers to give a nice overlay/chromatic effect, but my spacing was a couple picas off, and I ended up placing my numbers straight.

Then, I got the calendar form back on the press, this time with no chase, and locked it up with quoins and furniture, threw down a colophon that listed my name, the shop, and the typefaces I used, and printed it!

The lockup.

I chose 2 color schemes- one is CMY with a black/bronze ink for the calendar, and one is a reflex blue/yellow/ day glow orange with a silvery ink for the calendar.

I am really pleased with how this turned out. It was my first big letterpress project and I think it’s pretty successful. If I were to do it again (2025, anyone?), I would switch up the colors to achieve a better contrast between the calendar and the 2024, and maybe I would represent the holidays differently. I loved working on this and I’m excited to start my next big project!

Leah Rosen with the final prints.

1 Comment A Letterpress Calendar for 2024

  1. Amelia Hugill-Fontanel

    Congratulations on an epic journey of hand-typesetting and printing! I admire that you dug into exploring the use of vintage metal typefaces, which originated in the early 20th century from so many American, German, and English foundries. Your skills in planning and problem-solving are a great model for all of us who work with typography and printmaking!


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