Welcome to the Letpress Internet mailing list!

Letpress is an active electronic mailing list, currently with over 700 subscribers from around the world, devoted to all aspects of letterpress printing. It is one of the most useful resources you will find related to this perhaps anachronistic profession/avocation, because it gives you virtually immediate access to living, breathing people who undoubtedly have had many of the same experiences, and worked through the same problems, that you are now facing. (Moreover, where else are you going to find the only 700 other people on earth who will understand why it really is imperative that you spend the mortgage money on that lovely little font of 18th century type that just went up on eBay?)

To get the most out of Letpress it is important that you understand the basic details about what the list is for, how it works, and where to get more information about it. David Macfarlane (dmac@bway.net) of the Green Dolphin Press has very kindly taken the trouble to compile answers to many of the basic and frequently recurring questions that have passed through Letpress over the years. The current version (updated as of December 3, 2002) of the Letpress Frequently Asked Questions List (known colloquially as the “FAQ”) is available with a single click from the following location:


The FAQ includes answers to questions such as:

…and many others.

However, if you want to jump right to the Number One most frequently forgotten answer, here it is:

To leave the Letpress list, send a message [from the exact same e-mail address from which you originally subscribed!] to listserv@listserv.unb.ca [and not to the same address to which you send postings to the list!] with only the following line in the body of the message:

signoff letpress

One easy way to subscribe, unsubscribe, and generally make Letpress work the way you want it to is by going to the Letpress administration page at:


where, with a few simple mouse-clicks, you can join, leave and change your list options. And finally, while the FAQ provides a quick and easy summary of many common answers, much of the value of Letpress lies in the fact that every word of every message ever written on Letpress is available online in the Letpress Archives, fully indexed and searchable. To browse among the Archives to your heart’s content, simply go to:


Letpress Mailing List “Netiquette”

Tens of thousands of mailing lists have been operated over more than two decades of Internet use, and during that time several basic principles (collectively known as “netiquette”) have been developed by consensus that govern responsible use of the lists for the benefit of all their members. While most of them are based on common sense and common courtesy, a quick review is often helpful, especially for those who might be new to the use of Internet mailing lists. There are several sites online with excellent discussions of netiquette, including the complete online text of the classic book Netiquette by Virginia Shea, and TidBits’ Mailing List Manners 101 and 102. With regard to Letpress in particular, most active members of the list would probably agree with the following guidelines:

·    When you first join Letpress, monitor the messages for a few days to get a feel for what common questions are asked, and what topics are deemed off-limits. This is often referred to as lurking. When you feel comfortable with the group, then start posting.

·    Do make it a point to read both the Introduction to Letterpress Printing and the Letpress FAQ mentioned above. It’s a little depressing for veteran members to see the same questions every few weeks, particularly when they know that you’ve been explicitly pointed to the answers but didn’t bother to click the mouse to read them.

·    Keep in mind that Letpress has members from many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, Belgium, France, Germany and others. Don't assume that everyone will understand a reference to TV, movies, pop culture, or current events in your country. If you must use the reference, please explain it. Also, don't assume that everyone will understand geographical references that are local or national.

·    Remember that Letpress is dedicated solely to letterpress printing and certain very closely allied subjects. Therefore please keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of the discussion group. While we all have strong feelings about politics, religion and other topics, messages about them do not belong on Letpress. There are many other forums for those discussions; please use them. That said, Letpress members are free to post anything letterpress-related they feel might be of interest to others. Topics have included everything from discussions on the history of printing, to technical Q&A, to offerings of services and supplies by vendors and individuals.

·    Because Letpress serves as a ‘social club’ for letterpress printers from around the world, conversations on the list occasionally drift into letterpress-related humor. This is acceptable (while not specifically encouraged), but most members would appreciate it if the humor threads were kept relatively short and sweet.

·    If another person posts a comment or question that is off the subject, do not reply to the list and keep the off-subject conversation going publicly.

·    When going away for more than a week or so, please unsubscribe or suspend mail from Letpress (and any other mailing lists to which you may belong). This is especially true if your system is going to generate an automatic “Sorry, I’m away” message in response to all incoming mail.

·    If you would like to be able to easily differentiate incoming messages from the Letpress list in your mailbox, simply go to the administration page, type in your email address and name in the boxes provided, and under Mail header style, click on the second choice (LISTSERV-style, with list name in subject). That way, all messages from the list will show up in your box with [LETPRESS] preceding the subject in the subject line. Even easier, for those with all but the most rudimentary email programs, simply set up a new mailbox just for Letpress, and then create a “rule” to move all mail from the list into that box as soon as it arrives. Voila, all the list in one place, with no interference of your “real” work!

·    When quoting another person, edit out whatever isn't directly applicable to your reply. Don't let your e-mail software automatically quote the entire body of messages you are replying to when it's not necessary. Take the time to edit any quotations down to the minimum necessary to provide context for your reply. Nobody likes reading a long message in quotes for the third or fourth time, only to be followed by a one line response: "Yeah, me too." This is especially true if you subscribe to Letpress in what is called “digest mode”. In addition, if you are quoting part of a previous message, make sure to put it below your own comments, instead of at the top. Otherwise recipients who only scan the first paragraphs of messages will assume that it is a duplicate and toss it without reading.

·    Use discretion when forwarding a long mail message to Letpress. It's preferable to reference the source of a document and provide instructions on how to obtain a copy (as this message does with the Introduction and FAQ above.)

·    Some members choose to use a special “signature” that is appended automatically by their e-mail program to every message they write. While this can be useful to everyone else by letting us know where you’re located, or with what organization you are affiliated, overly-long “sigs” (say, over four or five lines) with graphics, lengthy quotations and the like are much more of an annoyance than a help, and give your readers the impression that you’re clueless rather than cool.

·    Note that this is a text-based mailing list, and no graphics or pictures are allowed. If you want to share an image, you should arrange for it to be posted online somewhere, and then include a link to the location in your message. Few things will bring down the wrath of the list faster than a message with an attachment.

·    The question of HTML use for messages on Letpress is a somewhat blurry one. Messages posted in HTML format (such as the message you are now reading) allow the author a wide range of formatting and linking options, and will be passed through by the list server to most subscribers. However, you should be aware that a significant minority of Letpress members, for one reason or another, receive messages from the list only in plain text format, and your message will therefore be automatically reformatted for them. So if you have no special reason for using HTML, you should probably post to Letpress in plain text, and if you do have a special reason, you should carefully write your message so that it is still useful when viewed in plain text.

·    Please resist the temptation to "flame" others on the list. These discussions are "public" and meant for constructive exchanges. Treat the others on the list as you would want them to treat you. Remember that you are responsible for all postings made by you, or from your account. Please think before you post anything inflammatory which you may later on regret having posted.

·    If something is confidential, please do not send it to the list. All postings are copyright to their respective poster, but should be thought of as a publication in Letpress and its Archive. Your post goes to at least 700 of your closest friends, and all messages are captured for the Archive. Once in the Archive they will not be removed. At the same time, however, you need to realize that even though a member posts a comment to the whole list, this does not put it into the public domain, and you may not copy and use that comment elsewhere without permission, whether on the Internet, in a print medium, or elsewhere.

·    There are some issues on which Letpress will never, ever come to agreement (including things such as the optimum amount of impression, the definition of an “amateur” printer, whether or not printing from photopolymer plates is “real” letterpress, and whether or not an Original Heidelberg should be called a “windmill”.) Threads on these insoluble questions get very tiring very quickly, so please don’t drag them out unnecessarily.

·    When posting a question to Letpress, the answer to which would clearly not be of general interest (such as “who wants to buy my snickelwooper?”), please request that responses be directed to you personally, “off-list”. If appropriate, you can then post a summary or answer to your question to the group. One nice way to do this (for that particular message only) is to use the option in your e-mail program to have replies sent to your specific address (under “Options” in MS Outlook, for example). That said, however, Letpress would definitely benefit from the answers to many different types of questions, so if you have to choose, please err on the side of staying “ON-list”.

·    When replying to a message posted to the Letpress list, check the address to be certain it's going to the intended location (either a person or the List address). It can be very embarrassing if your correspondent replies incorrectly and posts a personal message to the entire List that was intended for an individual. That said, even the most experienced of us sometimes blow this one, and you should be sympathetic and look the other way if you see a public posting that obviously should have been private.

·    When you first signed up for Letpress, the LISTERV software automatically sent you a “subscription” letter. It is important to save that e-mail for your reference. You should also seriously consider saving on your own computer this message, the Introduction and the FAQ. That way if you go on vacation you will have the subscription address for suspending mail. At any time you can instantly get a complete list of all the commands available to list members (and there are some nifty ones) by sending to listserv@listserv.unb.ca the message "info refcard" (without the quotes).

·    Other people on the list are not interested in your desire to be added or deleted. Any requests regarding administrative tasks such as being added or removed from a list should be made to the LISTSERV address, not the list itself. (See above and read the FAQ!) Occasionally, however, subscribers to the list who are not familiar with proper netiquette will submit requests to SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE directly to Letpress itself. Be tolerant of this activity, and possibly provide some useful advice as opposed to being critical.

·    Finally, after you’ve been a member for a few weeks or months, do try to post a question, an answer or a comment at least once in a while. Letpress members include many of the world’s leading experts on letterpress printing, type-founding and other subjects, but these folks don’t stay around solely for your pleasure. Everyone, no matter how much of a letterpress novice, is capable of contributing to the list, and long-term lurking really isn’t fair to the rest of those who participate. Sucking up all that useful information without trying to make a contribution yourself in return is rather parasitic behavior.

Note: Some of the preceding suggestions were based upon a useful guide to Netiquette developed by Arlene Rinaldi for Florida Atlantic University. The full guide can be found at http://www.fau.edu/netiquette/netiquette.html

This compilation of Letpress "netiquette" tips has been excerpted from the “Start Here!” message posted monthly to the Letpress mailing list. Please address all comments, critiques and suggestions for improvement to the author, David S. Rose of the Five Roses Press (david@fiveroses.org), New York, NY. Note that the author does not own or manage the Letpress mailing list, does not speak for anyone aside from himself, and that this message is therefore completely unofficial.