In early 2015, Chris Fritton, former Studio Director of the Western New York Book Arts Center, set out on an ambitious cross-country journey through US & Canada that has taken him to 45 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and over 135 letterpress printshops; he’s already traveled over 45,000 miles & made over 15,000 prints - but it doesn’t end there. The trip continues throughout 2017 and will eventually result in a book that features photos of all of the prints, printshops, and people he met. The project is called "The Itinerant Printer".
The history of itinerant printers is centuries old, dating back to the very first Apprentices who left the care of a Master Printer’s shop to become Journeymen. While visiting and working in other printshops, Journeymen would learn tricks and tips, along with different perspectives on printing. This accumulated knowledge was a key part of their growth as an artisan and craftsman, and after a number of years, these Journeymen would settle in different regions and begin their own printshops, completing their peregrination (literally and figuratively) from Apprentice to Master.
Chris Fritton aka Itinerant Printer visits letterpress printshops primarily, producing unique prints at each venue using their collections of antique wood type, metal type, cuts, ornaments, and photopolymer plates. These prints are mailed back to followers and supporters of the project as postcards from the road. He visits universities, book arts centers, private printshops, upstart presses, and well-established presses. “is has proven to be the perfect time” says Fritton, “public interest in analog art is cresting right now and letterpress shops are everywhere.”
The project intends to capture the spirit of the analog revival, send real samples of it to people’s mailboxes. The Itinerant Printer website tracks his progress; it features a travel diary, photos of the printshops, landscapes, and people from the journey.
The project has already taken on great national sponsors like Mailchimp, Van Son Holland Ink, Mohawk Paper, Field Notes etc, but the major source of capital was a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that Fritton ran himself. The campaign is ongoing - that means you can still contribute and still get perks, so check it out!