Style question: What is a “letterpress”?

I have noticed that many people say they want to buy a letterpress, or that they are moving a letterpress, or that they have broken their letterpress. Is that the proper term? I have always used the term “printing press,” knowing that it could be a letterpress printing press, or an offset printing press. Any thoughts on this?

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“Letterpress” is an umbrella term for the process, product and tools. It is a misnomer to call a “letterpress printing press” just a “letterpress” as such, but it sounds redundant so people do. I prefer to use the terms “platen press” or “cylinder press” or “flatbed press” or “vertical press” or “hand-press” when referring to specific kinds of letterpresses. It is even nicer when people refer to the exact make and model as in “Washington Press” which could refer to a press made by Rust, R.Hoe, A.B.Taylor, Cincinnati Type Foundry, Paul Schniedewind, Palmer & Rey, Ostrander Seymour, W.A.Field or Wesel companies.

Before offset printing became the commercial standard press meant letterpress.Now printing press to most people means offset.You are correct letterpresses are printing presses but most “printers”think offset.Early offset printers often where or considered themselves to be lithographers.I started as a diemaker in 1972 but it did not take long to realize that my trade was a combination of letterpress and Blacksmithing.Later as a shop owner in the diecutting business I learned much from old time PRINTERS(letterpressmen) Like to add that when we make a steel rule die for a customer they often say for the letterpress that way we know to use type high cutting(.918) rule as most diecutting presses are set for .937