Project Theme: Print and Letterpress

From 1510 to 2022 and beyond: printing in York has a long history. But letterpress – traditional printing using movable type – was added to the Red List of Endangered Crafts in 2019, in danger of dying out unless we find new ways to pass on the skills and knowledge of printers to new generations.

The StreetLife project is bringing letterpress back to York city centre. Look out for our beautiful Columbian press in the window of the project Hub on Coney Street, and join us to enjoy workshops, events and creative residencies between April and June.

Researcher Vera Ratnikova is uncovering York’s histories of print. When an enterprising immigrant from Antwerp, Hugo Goes, set up a press on Stonegate, York became one of the first cities in the UK to welcome the new art. In the 1660s, when book production was strictly controlled, York was one of only four cities where printing was allowed.

The first two volumes of Laurence Sterne’s whimsical, typographically outrageous Tristram Shandy were printed on Coney Street. And in 1888, Robert Duncan DeLittle founded the R D DeLittle “Eboracum” Letter Factory. By the time it closed, in 1998, the DeLittle Wood Letter Manufacturers was the last remaining wood letter maker in the UK.

Printing has been central to York’s proud history of newspapers and the press, following the arrival of the York Courant in 1725. Researcher Kathy Davies is exploring the past and future of ‘News on the Ouse’, digging into the history of newspapers in York, and discovering how printing and the City of York have been reported over the years.

If you have memories of printing in York, we would love to hear from you, and hope you will help us to preserve the histories of print, printing and printers. And if you worked at The Press on Coney Street, or knew someone who did, we’d love to hear more!