John the Type Snob Blog

On The Road Again

I suppose that any serious collector of letterpress type and equipment dreams of discovering an old print shop that closed many years ago and has just been waiting to be found. Naturally it’s got several beautiful old presses covered in dust but just waiting to be dusted off, oiled, and new rollers installed. Of course there are many cabinets of old and rare type that have barely been used. In the front office, on the shelves, are beautiful old type specimen books and a complete run of Inland Printer. Twenty years ago I heard of such a shop in a small, dying town in south Arkansas. The owner died and the owner’s daughter just locked it up. I contacted the daughter and met her at the shop. Inside was an ancient cylinder press, a Linotype, an 8 x 12 C&P, a stereo casting box, a big “rolling pin” proof press and one cabinet of Stymie and Brush. Everything was rusted and covered in dust and dirt. The roof was leaking and the brick walls were about to fall. Twenty years ago I was buying almost any letterpress equipment I found. I made an offer; I think it was a thousand bucks. Probably nine hundred dollars too much. Well, the daughter blew up; accused me of being some kind of crook. Told me this equipment was very rare and worth lots of money. So, I bid the young lady good day and left.
Lately I’ve decided to re-explore my home state, see some places in Arkansas that I haven’t seen and revisit places that I haven’t seen in a long while. When possible, I’ve been taking a weekend off, climb in my new little motor home and visit a state park. While there, I drive around the area and explore. No real plan or destination, when I see something that interests me, I stop and look. Tiny little backwoods towns, antique stores, local museums, tourist stops, I stop and investigate. So I happened to be driving through that even smaller, still-dying town in south Arkansas and wondered if that old print shop was still there. It was. Nothing much had changed. Maybe more rust and more dust. The walls had shifted more. The door was locked. I laid my phone/camera on the window in the front door and took a couple of photos. I suppose the shop will be there long after I’m gone.