Dispatch from Iceland

Greetings from Reykjavík! I am lucky enough to have made it to Iceland’s capital city, where a small museum of printing is getting on its feet: Prentsögusetrið. The website is all in Icelandic, but those interested should be able to use Google translate or the options built into the Microsoft Edge browser to read up on the history of printing in Iceland: https://prentsogusetur.is/ If you have a question about something specific, I can probably translate it for you, so just ask. There are also some great pictures. (Click on anything that says ‘myndir.’)

I was even luckier to be allowed into the museum outside of its irregular opening hours. I was surprised to find both US-built and European (German, I think) table top platen presses as well as a Linotype machine modified to include the Icelandic characters þ and ð. There’s a Maxima book-printing press (this may not be what it’s properly called in English) and various binding machines as well as many, many fonts of type and cuts. There is evidentally a lot more still in storage. I now know that in Icelandic a composing stick is called a -haki- and many other bits of trivia besides.

I was very surprised to see the American machines. Iceland was under the Danish crown until 1944, and historically much Icelandic-language printing was done in Copenhagen, presumably at Danish type height. But the Chandler & Price and the Linotype made me think that a fair bit of Icelandic printing in recent times may have used US type height. Alas, I did not have a gauge with me to measure anything on display, the good fellow who let me in was not familiar with the details, and as a beginner I am doubtless unclear on various things obvious to more experienced members of this forum. Meanwhile, I am now cautiously optimistic that I might be able to find some vintage type here that I would be able to use back home in the US. I would love to be able to print things in Icelandic, but so far I have been unable to source the crucial ð and þ.

Enjoy poking around the website!

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Here’s the crest of The Icelandic Printers’ Society and some sorts.

image: elusiveeth.jpg


image: prentfjelag.jpg


I am very interested to know if any of their collection includes hand presses, whether iron or wooden, of the kind with a horizontal bed and platen, operated by a bar that moves the platen, for inclusion in the Worldwide Hand Press Database. They should also join the Association of European Printing Museums, on whose website it is planned to host the Worldwide Hand Press Database.


I will pass that on when I write to the organizers!

We sold a 10”x15” Heidelberg platen to someone in Reykjavik six years ago, so there should also be some letterpress work being done there now as well. I am very glad that someone thinks enough of printing heritage over there to have a collection of preserved machines and equipment of the Trade and Craft of Letterpress.
By the way, both Mergenthaler and Intertype had the equipment to manufacture matrices for any of the languages that use the basic Latin alphabet — as well as most others that do not!
Just Keep Printing!

Frank - That might have been the good folks at Reykjavík Letterpress (www.letterpress.is). I will ask when I make contact over there.