letterpress for poetry broadsides

The Vandercook Proof press has been recommened to me for creating poetry broadsides, etc. Do any of you have suggestions for this kind of art work & literature? Also, any leads on where to buy a press? Jim Ciletti, Colorado Springs

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Get a copy of “Printing Poetry” by Clifford Burke. 1980. It has all the information you need.

Hi Jim,

Are you the poet? If so, and if what you want is to see your work on a finely printed broadside, then perhaps you should consider working with an experienced printer instead of learning to print yourself. Learning to print well takes years, and the expense and space requirements of a press, especially a Vandercook, are large.


Barb…. learning to print does indeed take time and effort, but for many poets it is quite worthwhile. There is a rather strong tradition among poets, especially in England, to print one’s own work into self-published books and broadsides. It’s a sub-genre of hobby printing.

Some of my own first printed works were poems and short stories that I had written….. and they were well received. This was not only due to their content, which was not great writting, but more due to the fact that they were hand printed on home-built equipment.

Jim- A Vandercook is indeed a great machine for printing poetry and art. I know quite a few folks who use them. However, they are also quite expensive nowadays. For one’s first forays into Art or Poetry printing, I’d recommend a small tabletop proof press like a Poco, or a sign press. These can be had at reasonable prices, and can still print a decent large image. For Art, they are great.

AKA Winking Cat Press

Hi again fellas,

Thanks for the feedback, Dave. I didn’t mean to discourage Jim from taking on the sublime task of printing one’s own poetry. Truth be told, that has been my own goal. I just wasn’t sure whether it was the product or the process that he was interested in. Jim, if it’s the process, do dive in!

Perhaps Jim should look for a college or art school program in letterpress printing. I gather that most schools use Vandercooks since they’re well-suited to a printmaking, graphic arts, or book arts department and since they’re among the safest of printing presses. Oftentimes letterpress classes are available through the continuing education programs, and sometimes students can use the presses outside of class time. This would be a good way to get one’s feet wet (or rather, one’s fingers inky).


Thanks to all of you for your good advice and qq. Yes, I am a (published) poet and yes I want to print my work and the work of others. When in the seminary I printed stationary etc on a Chandler Price so am familiar with printing, but not with Vandercook and art printing. Am exploring all ideas and possibilities and may be able to visit and study at the Press of Colorado College, which does letter press printing.

On www.abe.com Burke’s book starts at $120, used, so I may holdoff on that for now.

Space is not an issue, we have a garage, empty, with a concrete floor and good lighting.

How much are Vandercook’s in good working order selling for these days?

Thank you all and please feel free to add more info.