“If only I was able to extend my stay!”: Daniel Mellis about the flow of time and books

“It is hard to believe my time in Tartu is almost up. If only I was able to extend my stay! The city is interesting and charming: the cathedral ruins and Jaani Kirik, baroque structures of the city center, the bridges over the Emajõgi, and the houses of Karlova and Supilinn.

 

But as a printer, the Trükimuuseum is the most exciting place in the city and the one month I have spent there is not nearly enough time. My collaborator Clif and I have only begun to explore the possibilities of its outstanding collection of wood, metal, and plastic type. The museum has collected and preserved a rich heritage of typographic materials from the Soviet Union and the first Estonian Republic. This is in contrast to many other countries in Eastern Europe and the FSU which scrapped, discarded, or burnt letterpress printing equipment and type when they became commercially obsolete. One of our projects at the museum was to explore some of the very rare and possibly unique fonts of wood type. We printed specimens of six fonts: three were pre-1917 cyrillic faces and three were hand carved, probably for a specific print shop. The survivals of all of these through the tumultuous history of Estonia is astonishing.

 

 

The tidal wave of discarded library books flowing through the museum to be up-cycled into notebooks sparked our first projects at the museum; we embarked on a journey through literacy by responding to three books we found in the museum – a book on the Lembit submarine, “Tantsuprofessor” a pre-war play, and a book on Estonian. These projects also served as a way to start exploring the museum’s type collections.

 

 

Our last project was inspired by the Emajõgi, we made a print in the form of a book that traces the path of the river from Lake Võrtsjärv to Lake Peipsi. We were able to make the plates for the book thanks to another artist in the Aparaaditehas, Käty Tarkpea, and her laser cutter.

 

We both hope to be back; we both have many more projects to work on that can only be realized in the Trükimuuseum.”

 

– Daniel Mellis (US)
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