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Letterpress, Dyslexia and Being Left-handed

Volunteer Jemma talks about her experiences in the composing room


I have always been creative and have enjoyed many different creative processes. Last year I saw a television programme that featured letterpress and I thought about how interesting it looked. I decided to do an internet search to see if there was anything around locally, not expecting to find anything closer than London. My search lead to me finding the Small Print Company [sic]. I started volunteering at the Small Print in April 2019. Four months before that, at the age of 26, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. So, I wondered how I would manage with a job that revolved around letters and words.

Many things help me with my dyslexia and there are now many aids that can help dyslexic people achieve things. Letterpress has been one of the biggest aids and one of the biggest surprises. Working in this way, with each word being broken down into the individual letters and composing them in this way helps me break it down in a way that helps.

Composing Stick. Photo by Jemma Grace

Composing Stick. Photo by Jemma Grace

Being left-handed has always made things interesting from writing at school to using scissors but being a left-handed compositor may be the number one. Like many things it is taught right-handed as being a left-handed compositor is not really heard of. From what I have researched most people learn to do it right-handed or hold the composing stick in your right hand although it is known to be fiddlier (but it is possible). It is said amongst the letterpress community that left-handed composing sticks do exist, but most people have never come across one.

Being a museum and heritage student and thinking from a collection point of view this would be an object that would be very welcome in the collection.

As I write this I wonder what part of me ever thought being left handed and dyslexic I could be so mesmerized by Letterpress and yet here I am, loving everyday I work in the studio and all the research I do from pioneering women such as Beatrice Warde to creating an archive of words that relate to this fascinating heritage.

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