Last May I went to Barcelona to visit Arcangela Regis.
“Arca” is an italian printer and artist living there, a great member of Letterpress Workers community and, more important, a really good friend.
The printshop is called “Lauren Press” and it’s not far from the city centre by underground- which means the opportunity to do some walking around.
She shares the space with three bookbinders and a Spanish photographer.
The name belongs to her mother, Lauren. In 2011, just back from London and setting the press, she had to find a name for it. Founding herself looking at a painting painted and signed by her mother, who died prematurely, suddenly was clear that the printshop will be named after her mother, as tribute to her.
The first thing I crossed, just after passing the entrance, was the big and amazing Albion.
This press has a really incredible story: after one years living in London and while Arcangela was volunteering at St. Bride Library, a call came through and an incredible deal was done. A Double Crown Albion press from Bedfordshire needed a new home, and after the phone call, it was given to her.
The problem was to bring it to Spain – it is a bit too big to put in a backpack. But an (arc)angel turn up to help: Richard Lawrence. Richard runs a printshop in Oxford, doing beautiful books and prints. His long experience, ables him to dismount, move and assemble again most of the presses around. And it is exactly what he did: one year later, after having found a good place for her activities, Arca called Richard, who putted the Albion on a van and headed down to Barcelona, not without the inestimable help of Ben Weiner. The all history of this trip is in Iberian Albion Adventures, a small pamphlet that Arcangela, Richard and Ben printed after setting the press.
Usually, when I visit other printers, I look to their equipment, looking for the differences between Italy and the rest of the world. In this case, one of the most interesting was the incredible amount of spaces. In Italy there are only 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15 and, then, every 5 ciceros. In Spain, all the sizes are available! The second was the incredible order in the printshop. Everything was in the right place, from types to inks to blades. After discovering this, I finally started my small print project.
In 2017 Catalunia people voted, against the Spanish government decision, to be independent from Spain and this was the starting point for a tug of war which is still going on.
I don’t like nationalism but I also hate what the Spanish government does to Catalans and the comeback of some ways of neofascism (both in Spain and Italy). All the situation reminded me George Orwell and, of course, the years he spent fighting franchist, narrated in Homage to Catalonia. He wrote also Notes on Nationalism and there I found a note really close to what was going on:
There is no crime,
that cannot be condoned
when “our” side commits it
So, I started to check in the cabinets, looking for the right typefaces. That search was amazing because Arcangela holds a real treasure!
A big cabinet, one of those used in bakeries, is full of beautiful wood types coming from Colombia and Barcelona.
One of them was perfect for my background, a couple of different G and O overprinted.
For the note I needed lead types and, of course, she had some as well. One cabinet captured my eyes. It was full of Bembo, in different size and style, also coming from England, again, with Richard and Ben’s help.
I set up the short text and printed in a dark purple.
The Albion was interesting to use and a bit exhausting too. It is incredible the precision that requires with inking and pressure.
Now I understand a little more the exertion of the workers of the past!
At least, after only a couple of day – but I spent half of the time visiting Barcelona, the prints were ready.