Saturday, 22 October 2011

Whole Earth Catalog

With all the obits around for Steve Jobs I was surprised to hear mention the Last Wholearth Catalog. Steve Jobs mentioned in one of his speeches just how inspiring it was for him. Same here! Without a doubt it was probably the most useful book for me at that time. I tried to read Marx and Hebert Marcuse and all the radical reads trendy at the time, but I just don't have a head for too much theory. "Access to tools and ideas" was much more my line!
Everywhere I went in the early seventies people seemed to be reading and talking about the contents. Every share house, commune, collective, etc that I visited seemed to have a copy. There was an Australian New Zealand edition as well. It was like a precursor to the internet but without the rubbish!
it was put together using cold type composition, Polaroid MP4 copy camera and good old scissors, board and paste. As a Letterpress printer I could also see that the days of hot metal was numbered. I could also see that it was feasible to set up a press and publish with limited capital. A period of democratic printing was opening up with small offset printing.
 We started on posters and pamphlets and by the 1980s had a offset printing business from which we were able to develop a letterpress operation. A funny trajectory but it was what we wanted. And then along came the Mac, (thanks Steve), Pagemaker Illustrator and Photoshop. Being out in the countryside I developed ways of getting film for platemaking that didn't involve sending files away. I would set jobs much bigger in size, output on a laserwriter and process camera reduce them onto film, to pick up resolution. Now process cameras have gone - we gave ours away, Lith film has gone, and to go into a offset printing business would require nerve and tons of money. Printing is becoming centralised, and digital presses are wiping out offset printing businesses.
 But through it all Letterpress is growing as legions of people around the world choose texture and surface qualities only present in the last true printing process - Letterpress!

 Stay Hungry, Stay foolish!

Heres my Last Whole earth Catalog, I even bought the Millenium one in 1994, really the last one! They are a bit ratty looking but still read.

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