The Common Press is the letterpress and book arts studio at the University of Pennsylvania.
Common Press offers workshops to students, faculty, and staff; provides studio access for independent projects; and provides curricular support. Our programs include visiting artists and community outreach.
Common Press provides curricular support by hosting remote tours, demonstrations, and workshops for Penn courses. If you are leading a class and are interested in utilizing Common Press, please submit a Class Visit Form to begin a discussion about how we might support your course. We offer in-person and virtual tours of the letterpress studio, demonstrations of typesetting and printing, and hands-on bookbinding workshops.
Tours & Custom Workshops
For a tour, press training, or workshop for a small group, please complete our Request Form.
How to Use the Press
Accessing Common Press
Common Press exists to support teaching and learning across the University of Pennsylvania, and to facilitate collaboration across the university and beyond. Common Press is available to members of the University of Pennsylvania community (students, faculty, and staff), and occasionally the wider community, in several ways.
Penn students, faculty, and staff can complete an Intro to Letterpress Press Training workshop as a prerequisite for using Independent Project or Open Studio times. See our Events Calendar to register.
Registration is encouraged for Open Studio times. Common Press makes inks, stock paper, and clean up supplies available free of charge. For custom papers, please bring your own.
Workshops & Open Houses
Workshops in print, book making, and paper arts, as well as hands-on community printing events, are listed throughout the year on our Event Calendar.
We're pleased to offer two portable presses that are available for student borrowing for those who have some familiarity with printmaking. We also have toolkits for Linoleum Block Carving and for Bookbinding. Learn more about our offerings or request a kit.
What Can I Print?
The letterpress equipment in our studio is designed for printing movable type, but we can also print anything mounted to a level type-high (.918"). Here are some things we can print from:
- Photopolymer plates from digital file
- Linoleum or wood block, mounted
- Paper collage
- Cut vinyl
- Laser cut plexi
- 3D Printed Blocks
- P22 Blocks
- Laser or hand cut chipboard
What Can I Print On?
Paper. Text weight and cardstock. Cotton paper takes a great impression. Avoid highly textured paper. Paper with chunky plant materials damage type.
Some fabrics may be printed on the R. Hoe Company Hand Press.
The Press maintains a collection of paper sample books for reference.
- Vandercook No. 4 (1955)
- Vandercook SP-15 (1963)
- Hoe Washington Hand Press (ca. 1847)
- Chandler and Price New Series 8 x 12 Platen Press
- Golding Pearl New Improved #8 5 x 8 Platen Press
- Kelsey Excelsior 5 x 8 Tabletop Platen Press
- Signmaker Proof Press
- 2 Provisional Presses (available to loan)
- Library of wood and metal type, along with historical image blocks
- 2 sets of P22 Blox
- Bases for photopolymer plate & pressure prints
- Pearl Guillotine Cutter, 14” Blade
- Dahle Rotary Paper Cutter
- Bookbinding tools (toolkits available to loan)
- Linoleum cutting toolkits (available to loan)
- Corner Rounder
- Button Maker (1.25")
- Library of paper samples
Where Can I Find Common Press Prints?
Kislak Center for Special Collections maintains an archive of the Press's work.
Kelly Writers House has images of work produced under their Robinson Press imprint on their website.
Please pull long hair back, remove scarves and long jewelry, and wear close toed shoes to work at the Press. Oh, and we get inky - avoid wearing your best!
Safety is part of press training. Find more information here.
Where can I get photopolymer plates made?
We order ours from Boxcar Press. They provide detailed information on file preparation and ordering, as well as fast turnaround.
Can I work at the Press?
Common Press employs several student workers through the year. Search student positions in WorkDay for openings.
Contact Mary Tasillo to get more information on the project
Common Press is a collaboration of Penn Libraries, Stuart Weitzmann School of Design, and Kelly Writers House.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 215-746-3001
Fisher Fine Arts Library, Lower Level
220 South 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104