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Print: How You Can Do it Yourself!

January 12, 2011

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A few months ago I picked up an amazing book called Print: How Your Can Do it Yourself by Jonathan Zeitlyn. It was first printed in 1974, in the heyday of self-publishing and the alt press scene. I was amazed that the copy I had was the 5th printing from 1992, since this didn’t seem like the type of thing that would have longevity. In the introduction, Zeitlyn explains that it is aimed to show various inexpensive design and print methods, and how to establish your own/community press.
Filled with great hand drawn graphics and step by step instructions, it is easy and fun to read. It goes into detail about different print methods including relief, letterpress, photocopy, stencil, silkscreen, offset. It also has info on techniques like jelly pad printing and spirit duplicating, and more. It also explains techniques of design including typesetting, text, layout, gridding, borders and tone. Equally valuable is info on choosing paper, and dealing with “professional” printers, setting up our own printshop, and safety. It also has a helpful glossary of terms.


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It took me a while to finally look into who Zeitlyn was. I found a great article in Afterall Journal by Jess Baines, about his role in the community and diy print scene in London in the 70’s. This was a time when radical printmaking workshops and skillshares proliferated, with emphasis on the collective experience, not on practice of the individual artist. It was considered a means of self-empowerment and representation, not just a way to spread a political message. Controlling distribution and print production also counteracted the dominant media powers.
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Within this context Baines writes:

Jonathan Zeitlyn, who was involved in Inter-Action Trust, a community arts project in North London, began producing the booklet Print: How You can Do It, a guide to DIY printing in which he describes how by taking charge of the means of print production, we ‘the people’ could begin to articulate a new culture. Zeitlyn continued producing these guides until the early 1990s, when he declared that with the development of desktop publishing the DIY idea of self-publishing had become commercialised: the activity was no longer attached to collective emancipation but to individualised self-sufficiency.

The rest of the article is really interesting, read the rest here.
* all images are from Print: How You Can Do It Yourself

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