One of the weighty issues of setting up a Typography program in the Canadian Arctic is and will forever be, equipment and supplies. Another issue is of course having someone that is skilled in its application. Another is the sea lift, the ordering of supplies so the stevedores on Montreal docks can put it all on board large ships and move everything north. Back in the day when phones were spotty everything had to be written out and mailed to both suppliers and shippers and they had to write back to confirm they had what you wanted and in fact they could get it to the docks in time. As you read in the section about Wil he arranged for the letterpress equipment to be shipped to Cape Dorset. Three presses, weighing in in tonnes not pounds, all the lead type secured in wooden crates various papers inks and other minutiae specific to the practice. Back then they were really good at moving stuff around. The equipment was vintage WW2 or Vietnam era, good enough to storm Normandy under fire should be good enough to land on an icy Cape Dorset beach.
Little Giant (12x18)
Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press states it best:
"We bought some type from Wil through Laura Walz when he was in Powell River. As I recall he was quite fed up with things generally and was ready, as I recall Laura's saying, to dump the whole lot into the sea. We bought perhaps ten cases of type (I can't remember exactly) and the Little Giant, which we used for a while (notably for some of Endgrain, the big book we did on wood engraving in the late 90s) and then passed on to David Clifford at Black Stone Press. A couple of years ago he had to get it out of his shop as he needed the room, and as he couldn't find anyone who wanted it after a good long time looking, he had to scrap it. Very sad. The fact is that out here on the west coast, at least, there isn't much call for presses of that type: we had to scrap Jim Rimmer's Kelly B a couple of years ago for the same reason. Hand presses and even vertical platens are easy enough to find homes for, but cylinder presses are generally regarded as too much machine for most people, as Wil's Little Giant and Jim's Kelly were for us: we really didn't need a press which turned out 3,000 impressions an hour when we print editions of 100 to 150! They should have been in a museum, but museums haven't enough money even to store things they are given." CE June 19 2013
I have yet to see a photograph of either the Little Giant or the platen press in situ at Kinngait Studios when it was operational. If anyone knows of one please share.
The only reference I have of anyone seeing the platen press in Cape Dorset was from Jutai Toonoo when he said that he remembered working on it and how you had to be careful not to get your hands trapped when both adding paper and then removing it.
There is the matter of what Wil refers to as the 10x15 which I have to assume is a platen press, perhaps the one in this picture again from British Columbia?
The third press that is still in Cape Dorset is the Vandercook 4T proof Press.
I remember rooting around the two matchbox buildings we keep for storage, they are from the very beginnings of the Dorset settlement story and there aren't many left. They can be moved about by front end loaders and lift trucks if need be so they are versatile. They are heated with a small oil stove and illuminated with a few bare bulbs hung at the highest point which isn't very high for a tall person.
We don't keep them heated so my journey out to hunt for old stuff was brief and cold. The locks are kept lubricated so getting in was no issue. I walked over the old red linoleum snow crunching under feet, my breath fogging my glasses but I could see that my memory served me well. The Vandercook 14 was there piled high with junk, some parts were absent but I expected they were still stowed some wheres nearby. Now to get them out, that called for Ematalu and Tutuiza and the stone cart. Ematalu suggested we dismantle the press to make it easier to get through the small doors and lighter to lift. Out it went and back into the studio where it was heated after 30 years of being ignored.
As a bit of an aside but still relevant to the issue of presses is a mention about the ships wheel etching press. This press came from the Queen's Printers in Ottawa. (conversations with Terry Ryan)