Examples of work created by the University's Print Society

Hot off the press: our Print Society

At the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) societies meeting I found myself sitting next to a lovely member of HackSoc, the university’s Computer Science society.

He asked what society I am involved in and when I brightly replied, “Print Soc,” he immediately looked confused. 

“So that’s printers?”

“Printing presses. Think the big old machines that produced newspapers before computers.”

“Oh. What code do you use?”

“We don’t use a code.”

“You know, the code to produce the print.”

“There’s no code. We’re pre-code. It’s just the alphabet.”

He then went on to tell me about what HackSoc did, leaving me just as confused as he had been.

Clearly, we were coming from different centuries – different worlds. We eventually chatted very happily about the weather.

Print is not dead

But the University of York’s Print Society is not alone.

According to an article in December 2019’s Economist magazine, old fashioned printing is on the rise. You might wonder why. From the huge amounts of space needed, to the time and money involved in creating relatively tiny pieces of work, it’s easy to question its modern day relevance.

And yet it is making a comeback, and as Print Soc’s president, I can tell you we are LOVING it.

Print Society currently runs printing-related events and courses, (including a letterpress course of which I am particularly proud!) teaching students how to print. It’s hard to understand the magnitude of this if you don’t know anything about printing.

In the ‘olden days’ a piece of print might have passed through the hands of maybe ten different people before being completed.

Students operate a Colombian printing press from the eighteenth century
Students operate a Colombian printing press from the eighteenth century

At Thin Ice Press we’re so lucky to have access to such beautiful presses. The largest is the Colombian, an American design, (hence the eagle counterweight) made in London in the eighteenth century.

But why do it? If it’s difficult, and long winded, and takes a long time to be trained to do?

Why join Print Society?

Students like Print Soc for so many reasons.

When you spend your life staring at a computer screen (as you and I are doing now), its always nice not to look at a screen for a while.

It’s also very cathartic to lay the type, and to get a feel for the lay out of a type case (it isn’t like a qwerty keyboard!), and feel yourself getting faster.

Jessica works laying out the letters for a printing press plate
Laying out the letters

It’s tactile, and immensely satisfying to be able to create something with your hands that is so beautiful – something that a modern printer simply cannot produce.

Of course, this is all until you drop a setting stick, the type goes all over the place and you have to start again. But – it’s part of the process, and makes the end product even sweeter. 

So, if you like old, cathartic, complicated, relaxing, difficult, beautiful, non-screen related, arduous yet fulfilling activities – why not give Print Soc a go?

Find the society for you

The University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) offers over 200 student societies, all entirely organised by and for students, or you can even start your own. From astronomy to aerobics and politics to poetry – there’s plenty to choose from.

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I am a mature learner from York, studying English and Related Literature. I am also President of Print Soc, and love travelling.

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