Rob and Georgia Buchert started Tryst Press in the basement of their apartment building in the early 1990s while they were students at Utah Valley University which was then Utah Valley Community College. Today, Utah has a number of printing press houses that offer traditional letterpress printing, but Tryst Press is way ahead of the trend.
“When we started this 27 years ago, a 22" by 30" sheet of fine hand-made paper would cost about eight dollars ... you need a hundred of those sheets to make a small edition, so the next logical step was to make our own paper," says Rob.
For Rob and Georgia, the making of a book starts with not only making the paper but building the paper making tools themselves. Rob handcrafts the molds and watermarks that make the paper. After the letterpress printing is complete, the book is hand bound. Considering this process, it’s easy to understand why one of their books may sell for upwards of thousands of dollars.
To letterpress a complete book is a meticulous and daunting undertaking. The printer must set each letter of type into the sentences and paragraphs that compose each page, making sure the lines of text are perfectly straight. They then roll a single sheet of paper across the inked letters. Depending on how many editions of the book they are printing, they may have to repeat this process hundreds if not thousands of times. This is just one step in the making of a Tryst Press book.
Each metal letter is referred to as a piece of type and in today’s digital world, there aren’t many metal types to choose from. “It’s an ancient technology,” explains Rob. “Occasionally there are people who still love the process and of making metal type, and occasionally they make new type, but you can’t get any font that’s on your computer made.”
Rob now teaches letterpress classes at BYU using some of the same equipment he used as a student almost 30 years ago. He also teaches paper-making out of the Tryst Press studio.
When asked how the letter press revolutionized the spread of knowledge, Rob explains how paper was just as important as the letter press. Says Rob: “You could publish a text much more quickly and less expensively than what they used previously, which was to kill a bunch of sheep or goats, tan their skins and then sit down and write everything out because you could just set one page of type, and as long as you had paper you could print as many copies of that as possible.”
To see more of Tryst Press’ work, visit their web page, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as this video by Mormon.org