Our shop in South Austin isn't very big, but it's outfitted with lovingly cared-for printing equipment and a printer who loves to do this stuff, to make sure you'll be glad you chose letterpress for your project.
For us, the “zen of letterpress” consists of about one part ingenuity and nine parts patience. Printing a letterpress job is primarily a process of tweaking, adjusting and solving problems, until the finished piece looks just as the client wants it.
Sometimes “makeready”—the process of arriving at the right register (position on the page), impression, and ink coverage—can take longer than actually printing the final pieces. The same goes for the sometimes tricky processes of hand-mixing color inks and trimming paper to size—often accompanied by colorful West Texas profanity and/or invocations of St. Brigid (patron saint of printing presses).
Letterpress—especially using the venerable equipment we have in our shop—is a craft process, and it trades off what may be microscopic irregularities for that unmistakably distinctive letterpress look and feel. But the goal is to deliver to you a printing job that is, in the phrase of railroad bard Lucius Beebe, “at once beautiful and useful,” and that meets your entire satisfaction.
OUR TYPE & EQUIPMENT.
Centerpiece of our shop is our 10 x 15 Chandler & Price "Old Series" platen job press, built in Cleveland in 1905, a vigorous specimen of the platen presses, tens of thousands in number, which served the world's job-printing needs from the 1850s until letterpress was largely supplanted by offset lithography in the 1960s and '70s.
We are also proud of our collection of handset metal type. Handset type—the kind set one letter at a time—likewise for more than 300 years made up every book, newspaper and printed item in the world until the invention of practical typesetting machines in the late 19th Century. Our cases hold more than 230 fonts in a wide variety of sizes, faces and styles. Check out our specimen book (below)!
Sargent Brothers is also equipped with a 23-inch Chandler & Price guillotine paper cutter, made in 1908, as well as all the necessary accoutrements of a well-appointed shop, ready to take care of practically any of your letterpress needs.
THE SARGENT BROTHERS.
The original Sargent brothers were Joe (1912-2000) and Ben (1913-2001), who acquired their first type and press as adolescents in 1926, at a time when printing was being assiduously promoted as a hobby for teenage boys. As the Mistletoe Print Shop, named for the street on which they lived in Fort Worth, they turned out job work, posters and a monthly, the Boys Journal .
In 1928, the Sargent boys purchased the Chandler & Price job press that is still the workhorse of our shop. Built in 1905, the 10 x 15 C&P "Old Series" press still runs like the proverbial watch.
The Mistletoe Print Shop's original collection of type disappeared after being lent out during World War II. Our shop's current collection of more than 230 fonts grew from an assortment of seven fonts purchased when the shop was reconstituted as Sargent Brothers Print Shop in Amarillo in 1960.
Joe Sargent kept up a steady flow of excellent job printing from his shop in Amarillo, as did his brother Ben from his shop in Walnut Creek, Calif., for many years. Joe taught the trade to his sons Ben and Ed when they were young boys. Both went on to long newspaper careers, Ben as a Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist in Austin and Ed as a veteran copy editor of the good old "yes-it-does-matter-what-precedes-a-restrictive-clause" variety, in Dallas. Ben has been proprietor of the print shop since it moved to Austin in the early 1990s.