A handmade letterpress from Moscow

Just found a rather nifty handmade letterpress contraption:

I mentioned the lack of impression screws, and the owner said he’s already thinking about implementing something along the way, as the impression is rather wonky at the moment.

The trouble is, there are no small presses in the former USSR outside of Museums, so getting a cheap likeness of Kelsey or Pilot isn’t much of an option.

As far as I know, this is the first functional (or semi-functional for now) letterpress in Russia.

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No way- there was plenty of letterpress being done in Russia. Maybe it’s one of the first DIY hand-presses……..

There certainly was a lot of letterpress activity, stretching all the way to the seventies when phototypesetting made most of it obsolete, but most of these were large industrial machines. The few smaller presses were smuggled into the country as contraband, in late nineteenth century to print socialist underground newspapers ,and revolutionary proclamations, but those were scarce, and are now only found in museums. The presence of censure before and after the revolution meant that a practice of hobby-printing never developed, so there are no small presses available.

A few mid-sized “Bostonki” were still used during WWII, often taken to the front lines. Naturally, war wasn’t kind to them, and most were lost or broke down.

Most publishing houses discarded wooden type, and melted the remaining lead in the early 90s to make room for new computer-driven systems.

You can still find an occasional Linotype used to cast lines for government forms and bus tickets, and larger presses are run to take these, but nothing much salvageable for a small hobby printer.

I see I see. This makes sense to me, but how much room for hobby (of any kind) was there in the USSR anyhow….

Plenty of room for hobby, just not the printing kind :)

Long vacations, little to no incentive to pull long shifts, stable future, left a lot of the time free to peruse a leisurely hobby-filled lifestyle. As long as it didn’t interfere with state policy.

A typical day of an engineer in a Soviet factory:

9:00-10:00 you come in, drink a large cup of tea, chatting with your colleges.
10:00-11:00 Do some work
11:00-12:00 Go to visit a few more rooms, drinking more tea and learning all the local gossip
12:00-1:00 Lunch at the factory canteen, followed by a short trip to get some beer.
1:00-2:00 Do some work
2:00-3:00 Drink a large cup of coffee, listening to political jokes (occasionally interspersed with ones about mothers in law)
4:00-5:00 Drink a few rounds of medical ethanol diluted in water (1/4 ratio)
5:00-6:00 Scour the room for something of value to steal from the factory as you leave.

A workers routine would be similar, except it would involve a lot less work, and more hard liquor in place of tea and coffee…And a bigger salary.

Ingenious little press. I would like to see youngster these days pulling a project like this and make it work.

Looking at the pictures, seems the rollers are metallic. Rubber would do better.

Between tea and vodka, I guess vodka tastes better.

Nice hobby. Cheers!