The Press at Colorado College, founded by Jim Trissel in 1978, is a letterpress studio dedicated to the art of making limited edition books and broadsides. Under Trissel’s guidance, The Press became one of the finest letterpresses in the country, producing stunningly beautiful books on a variety of subjects, from Color for the Letterpress, to Twelve Mammal Skulls, to A Selection of Poems by Helen Hunt Jackson and Emily Dickinson, and Silence. Since Trissel’s death in 1999, The Press has continued its work under the supervision of Brian Molanphy, Chris Forsythe, and Colin Frazer. Aaron Cohick is the current Printer of the Press.
From its inception, The Press has served as a classroom for students interested in book arts and literature. Students at The Press learn to design books and broadsides, set type by hand and with the computer, make photopolymer plates, print on the letterpress, and bind books. The Press also creates broadsides and books for events connected to visiting writers and lecturers at Colorado College, including work by figures like Seamus Heaney, Kay Ryan, Richard Wilbur, Billy Collins, David Quammen, and Darren Wershler.
“This Press has always depended on the kindness and devotion of students who want to help make books. What better environment is there for a student in a liberal arts college? What more encourages a range of inquiry, teaches crafts which ask the mind to work to the limits of the hand and eye, demonstrates the intersection of disciplines, the flights and vagaries of process, the focus of affection and all kinds of gratifications?”
“When I started working at the Press, Jim [Trissel] made me spend hours sorting a pile of type left over from workers who had left their type in trays instead of putting it away where it belonged. I had to sort it: Times Roman, Bodoni, Bembo, 10 point, 12 point. Most of it was only decipherable by the notches on the side of the type. Times Roman had notches that differed from Bodoni, Bodoni from Bembo, etc. I don’t know how may drawers there are in The Press. It seemed like hundreds. I bet it was only several dozen. It was a tedious and fairly miserable job to find one little inch of type drawer for a Times Roman 10 pt. letter ‘e’ but a clear and silent message from Jim: clean up your mess. When that initiation was done, Jim took me to the Vandercook poster press, flipped the motor on, showed me the basics in 10 minutes or less and left The Press for the day, leaving me confused and staring at the machine as the rollers went round and round. (I can hear the sound of the hiss of the sticky ink as I write.) What I didn’t know until this year, while binding books in a letterpress in England, was that when Jim flipped that switch, he opened something enormous for me. I moved from the logical to the mystical, from the provable to the intuitive.”
—Teresa Cohn, CC alum, English major