Minneapolis letterpress printer Todd Thyberg received a Jerome Book Arts grant to write and illustrate his own 3-color graphic novel, then print it on a 90-year-old Vandercook letterpress in his studio.
The Airship is about a scientist who creates this device onboard a dirigible that can transport the ship through space-time into other dimensions, or universes, if you will. Without giving too much away, he is transported to another universe and is trying to reach his father to let him know that he’s OK, but the messages get garbled and the reader needs future technology in order to decipher the messages.
The story came about when I started thinking about how I sit at a computer and design things that I then go and print on this outdated technology. I’m bridging a gap of eras, and that the people from the era of these presses would marvel at the technology we’re using today. I wanted to create a piece that took place in the past and was printed on the technology of that time, but by utilizing modern technology (future to them), the reader would have a deeper experience than just reading the story. With your smartphone, you’ll read QR codes in the book, which allows you to access messages from the son, and other goodies.
I had a chance to visit Todd in his his studio and checked out the huge stacks of prints and watched as he pulled prints off the Vandercook. He was outputting 400 of each page, with the expectation that he’d end up with 250, counting mistakes. One of the challenges he faced was trying to faithfully letterpress QR codes, which Todd believes may never have been done before. The final books will be sold as chapbooks or fancier, hardbound editions.