Browne and Co. Stationers was New York City’s oldest continually running business, printing under the same name since 1775. Two Hundred years later they teamed up with the New York South Seaport Museum to open a 19th century style print shop where they continue to print specialty items, cards, stationary, posters and other items suitable for traditional press printing.
Like most of the museums in NYC, Browne Printers offers hands-on opportunities to experience the museum. We enrolled in the “Fresh Prints” class that is offered monthly.
We arrived on a Wednesday evening. The printer is located on Water Street along the South Seaport. The streets along the harbor are cobbled in the old style. These buildings have been here for over 200 years, and it is easy to imagine what the area would have been like at that time.
We learned about the technological progression of printing and learned to operate three antique presses. We saw how ink, paper and operator precision play to the artistry of manual printing. We learned about type set, inks, papers and the mechanics of each type of press.
After watching demonstrations and receiving instruction we had the opportunity to make our own souvenirs.
One interesting discussion was related to the construction of individual type set. These artisans were incredibly meticulous, working to sculpt near flawless type with detailed uniform letters, in capital and lower case. Small fonts were hand sculpted in lead while large font letters (such as headlines) were carved from wooden blocks. We found ourselves in awe of a skill and tradition that is all but lost.
Browne and Company Stationers offers several hands-on classes for those who appreciate the craft. Master printer Rob Warner is also considering adding a class on paper making.