Printing a book cover in letterpress

Hi everyone,

I´ve been contacted by an author, who wants to print the book cover in a first limited edition in our letterpress studio. This is something that I have no experience with, but I want to do a check before I give him an answer of how to solve this the best way.

We have two windmills, but these presses is to small right..?
Does anyone have some good pointers or advice on how to land a project like this?


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If you’re talking about imprinting an assembled hard cover, the windmill is not going to work. If it is a paperback, cover only before binding, then the windmill should be able to do it unless it is a very large piece of paper. You need to be clear about the state of the book at the time of printing. Maybe the author is looking to hot-foil stamp the cover?


The best way to land it is to tell them you can do it.
But that won’t help you, especially if you don’t understand the project in it’s entirety and especially if you don’t have experience with printing FOR binding and finishing.

It’s important to have a really good grasp on the essentials of the project and to understand the materials involved in a detailed manner. You should schedule a meeting with the client and talk it through with them- that’s ultimately the best way to land the job, because it lets you present alternatives or problem solve and entirely understand what is at hand.

Books often have really special characteristics, especially covers. If it’s something simple like a chapbook or a paperback, as has been mentioned, it may just wind up being easy for you to run- but if there is a lot of complicated post-press assembly, scoring, folding, cutting, etc etc., you’ll have to run a lot of overage and that generally means you need to quote for this overage.

Best of luck to you on this exciting new prospect!

Tape binding can work, utilising separately printed front and back cover cards, which will fit in a windmill.

An example is Studio on Fire’s latest book. Here is video of them printing the cover:

And the finished product:

The trickiest part of this method is perhaps tape binding, which perhaps works best with section sewn pages. Limited edition will likely involve manually doing this = practice required.

Good luck, and please report back on what you decide to do in the end.

Thank you all for the good advice!

I will be teaming up with a well experienced book binder, and these pointers from you is vital for me. Thanks!

I´ll be back, keeping you posted of the whole process.

By the way, the release is set to the fall of 2012.

A little off this subject, but……

I picked up a copy the The Little Book of Letterpress at Barnes & Noble last weekend. Harcover. “Looked” to be letterpress printed on the cover because of the deep impression of the type. WRONG!!!!!!!! The cover was printed offset and then a debossing die was used to punch the image into the boards. The ONLY problem was that the deboss did not register well with the printed type!

I bought the most out-of-register copy that they had just so I could point it out to people. Having been in book production for decades, maybe its only me that sees the humor in this?


@Foolproof.. that is indeed funny. The least they could have done is to letterpress the cover. :)

@Foolproof.. that is indeed funny. The least they could have done is to letterpress the cover. :)

I’ve seen numerous greeting cards lately that are poorly debossed in the attempt to make them look like letterpress. Hatch Show Print has their postcard sets printed in China, even though they have the equipment to make them in Nashville. Such nonsense.



I’d think this is generally a job for the commercial binder, most of whom will just foil stamp based on your specs. If it is just printing a paper cover there is very little difference than printing anything else.


I have done some very small run bindings, but if the cover is thick, as mine were, I can’t imagine how you would do it on a Heidelberg. I made the bindings with davy board wrapped with paper. They were too big for any of my presses, to I had to use my hand-fed C&P and hold the board against bottom pins while someone else turned the fly wheel by hand. Made really beautiful impressions.