Hidden Treasure: New Leaves Press at URI

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Printing Winter Poems at URI’s New Leaves Press

New Leaves Press printed a special chapbook edition of Winter Poems, a collection of poems written by URI President Robert L. Carothers. Each winter throughout his tenure as president of URI, Carothers has penned a poem for his official holiday greeting card. This year, those poems have been collected and reprinted to commemorate his final year as president of URI.

There is a little-known treasure hiding in plain sight at the library on URI’s Kingston Campus: New Leaves Press, a letterpress printing workshop that produces chapbooks, broadsides, and other memorabilia and keepsakes. The Press is housed on the second floor (visible from the study area and accessible through Special Collections) and overseen by printer-in-residence Dore Page and special collections librarian Sarina Wyant. Page and Wyant are passionate and knowledgeable keepers of the press.

Letterpress printing is a process in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper resulting in a positive right-reading image. This kind of printing has a long history, starting in China before the 7th century AD. In approximately 1439, Johannes Gutenberg is credited with inventing the first system of moveable type, and also with inventing one of the earliest wooden printing presses. The industrial revolution introduced presses that were mechanized, but still hand-operated. Newspaper production in the 20th century saw the process completely mechanized, but still using the same basic letterpress principles. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, most printing is done on offset or digital presses.

But there is a resurgence of interest in letterpress printing—the hand-wrought character and the distinctive texture and color, along with the appeal of a handcrafted product, contribute to the rise of the “small press movement.” In 2006, the College & University Letterpress Printers’ Association was established to “bring together students and educators at international college-level letterpress programs.”

URI’s New Leaves Press was established in 1976 following the acquisition of an 1841 Albion press. The press was active until the mid 1980s, when interest and financing waned. In 2002, the press was formally reactivated and has been printing since then, with the Albion, along with an Adams Acorn press, a Washington press, two Kelsey table-tops, and a Pilot press. Notable supporters of New Leaves Press include Dean of University Libraries David Maslyn and the late Professor of Journalism Wilbur Doctor.

Currently, New Leaves Press is sponsoring its 5th Annual Poetry Contest. Each year the press honors one poet by printing the winning poem as a limited edition broadside and announcing the winner at a reception in April, coinciding with National Poetry Month and the annual New Leaves Presents Lecture, now in its seventh year. Submissions are due February 28, 2009. For more information, contact Sarina Wyant at srw@uri.edu.

In late fall 2008, Page designed and printed a limited-edition cover for a special chapbook edition of President Robert L. Carothers’ collection of Winter Poems. The inside pages were printed by Sheahan Printing, and the chapbooks were hand-bound by Sarina Wyant.