Legacy of Letters 2023: Letterpress Extravaganza—8. Cornuda

July 8, 2023 | Workshop Day 1

Letterpress workshop with Peter Kruty Editions

The letterpress workshop at the Tipoteca was led for the third time by Peter Kruty and Sayre Gaydos of Peter Kruty Editions in Brooklyn, New York. They and their two children Petra and Sammy met up with us in Venice. We were also joined in Cornuda by Chiara Bergese, a student at the Politecnico di Milano, whose participation in Legacy of Letters 2023 was made possible by a crowdfunding effort. Unfortunately, the money raised was only enough for her to attend either the tour or the letterpress workshop. She chose the latter.

The workshop began—as it always has—with an introduction on how to set metal type with a composing stick. Although the Legacy of letters 2023 participants had spent several days printing with both cylinder proofing presses and platen hand presses, they had yet to set any type.

Peter Kruty demonstrating the proper way to hold the composing stick. Looking on are (from left to right) Eran Ben Barak, Jacob Ford, Hofi Benediktsdóttir, Fred Wiltshire, and Susan Fitzgerald. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Chiara Bergese, Jacob Ford, Hofi Benediktsdóttir, and Kelci Baughman McDowell learning to set type. Peter Kruty is in the background at left. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Hofi Benediktsdóttir setting type in the stick. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Once everyone had set some type, Peter instructed them in the operation of a cylinder proof press. The three presses at the Tipoteca are smaller than the two the Legacy of Letters 2023 participants had tried at Archivio Tipografico and Officina Typo. There were some differences in degree of automation as well as the location of specific controls.

Peter Kruty explaining how to feed paper through the cylinder proofing press. Watching are Kelci Baughman McDowell, Chiara Bergese, Fred Wiltshire, Stefano Baldassari, Jacob Ford (with arm upraised), Shaqa Bovand, and Hofi Benediktsdóttir. Photograph by Paul Shaw.


The remainder of the morning was spent discussing the project for the letterpress workshop. In consultation with Sandro Berra (the director of the Tipoteca)—and with the added assistance of James Clough and Lucio Passerini—I had compiled a short glossary of English printing and type terms and their Italian equivalents. The participants in Legacy of Letters 2023 were going to print this glossary on small sheets (one half of an A4 sheet) that would be screwpost-bound later to mimic a Pantone swatchbook. The ten participants were divided into teams of two to work on the glossary: Chiara Bergese and Kelci Baughman McDowell (typesetting / type styles), Susan Fitzgerald and Fred Wiltshire (design / parts of letters), Stefano Baldassari and Jen Thomas (printing / paper / book), Eran Ben Barak and Shaqa Bovand (character set /decoration), and Jacob Ford and Hofi Benediktsdóttir (typography / parts of metal type).

2×5 Alfabeti dei Caratteri di Legno

The glossary focused on working with small metal type. To complement that project, the participants were given (nearly) free reign to design and print a broadside using a large typeface (metal wood or even plastic) from the Tipoteca collection. This broadside was to be the same size as the keepsakes that had been printed during the tour at Archivio Tipografico, Il Buon Tempo, and Officina Typo. The broadsides would be printed once the Glossary had been completed.


As with all Legacy of Letters workshops at the Tipoteca since 2015, lunch was at Le Corderie. This day was unusual in that Massimo seated us outdoors on the patio. With the umbrellas for shade, it was very pleasant.

Legacy of Letters 2023 participants eating lunch on the patio of Le Corderie. Petra and Sammy Kruty are seated at far right. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

After lunch we returned to the Tipoteca where the participants immediately began working on their glossary pages and dividers. They quickly set their type, created preliminary layouts, and were able to do some test printings.

Chiara Bergese and Kelci Baughman McDowell discussing the location of letters in the typecase. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Page from Jacob Ford’s sketchbook. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Eran Ben Barak building his design in the bed of the press. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Legacy of Letters 2023 participants walking back to the Villa Bolzonello from the Tipoteca at the end of the day. Photograph by Paul Shaw.