When I was about eight, my parents gave me one of those 'Superior' printing kits with rubber type. I fiddled with this for 2-3 years, ordering more rubber type, especially the 'Old English' fount. When I was 10 we went to Colonial Williamsburg for the first time and I fell in love with the common press; my parents had difficulty getting me out of the Printing Office. Coming home, my father and I devised a sort of a common press using an automobile jack as the screw. I wonder now why nobody told me about metal type, Kelsey or any of those wondrous things. Of course, in the 1960s there were no computers and there was no such thing as Google!
Fast forward to the 8th grade and my biology teacher, Henry Woodman. He understood lettering—I saw his black board lettering each Christmas—and I began to seek out books on the subject and illuminated MSS. I met incredible people like Dorothy Miner who was the Keeper of MSS. at the Walters; had a life-changing experience seeing P. W. Filby's three-part exhibition 'Two Thousand Years of Calligraphy'; studied privately with James Hayes to fall under the Edward Johnston spell; and finally studied under Sheila Waters, the ultimate teacher. Along the way, I took a two-week workshop with Donald Jackson on gilding up in N.Y.C.
In 1978 I was hired by John Slorp to assist at the Maryland Institute College of Art in teaching the freshmen classes in lettering (alas, long gone). In time, this class migrated into letterpress printing and the history of graphic design thanks to the department chair, Lew Fifield, as he could see that there was no future in lettering at MICA. At that point I dove into printing (using metal type this time!) and found an 8x10 Chandler & Price clamshell press, or rather it found me, and the rest is history, as they say. I was fortunate in finding mentors such as Frank Harrigan, Stan Nelson, Theo Rehak (Dale Guild Type Foundry), Bob Fleck, Carol Blinn and Ian Mortimer. Another watershed moment was attending the Oak Knoll Book Fest which brought the whole letterpress community together for the first time in the United States, England, Canada and Europe.
While I was 'hooked' on the wooden platen press in Williamsburg, I changed direction again in 1978 and bought an iron Schniedewend 'Washington' press. In 1991, I took a class at R.I.T. with Gabriel Rummonds on printing on the hand press. This was perfectly timed, as I was just launching into book publishing. Shortly thereafter, I traded in the Washington for an Albion, ATF (Dale Guild) types, dampened hand-made paper, and so on. From 1995 until 2002, I mentored two interns per year, which ended when I became the full-time director of the Fire Museum of Maryland.