The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Alan Kitching’s A-Z of Letterpress



I just received an advance copy of Alan Kitching’s A-Z of Letterpress from UK publisher Laurence King, and it really is a lovely little book for type and letterpress enthusiasts.1

The accordion-playing Kitching has featured on the blog before of course, but over the course of his career he has worked as a compositor, typographer, graphic designer, teacher, and poster artist. He founded the Typography Workshop in 1989 and, according to designer Derek Birdsall (renowned for his cover designs at Penguin amongst other things), Kitching single-handedly “breathed new life into the dying embers of letterpress” by teaching a new generation of designers how to compose type by hand.


A collaboration with Pentagram partner Angus Hyland, and designed in-house by Alexandre Coco, the book itself contains 39 alphabets shown letter by letter, presented from A to Z. All the founts are wood letter founts from Kitching’s collection, and every image in the book was printed by hand on a Vandercook no. 3 proof press.


It really is a thing of beauty. Printed on thick, creamy paper, the letter forms and page layouts are quirky and charming. The colours and metallic ink are vibrant and surprising. Even better, it is also a teaser of sort — Laurence King recently announced it will be publishing a monograph of Kitching’s work in 2016. Can’t wait.


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1. disclosure: Laurence King distributed in Canada by my employer Raincoast Books

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