February 10

Rescuing the Letterpress Art Made for Movie Ads

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Roffman first found out about Ginsberg and Wagners collection from an oldOmaha WorldHeraldarticle. An eBay seller had included the story with two blocks Roffmans wife had bought him as a birthday present. He called up the , and the person who answered the phone just happened to be the articles author, who helped connect him to Ginsberg and Wagner.

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After years of work, they have catalogued and restored the plates and now have put the entire collection up for sale. Experts have told them its the only collection of its kinda visual history of Hollywood from the s to the s. They hope to sell it to a museum that can the blocks, as well as use the Vandercook letterpress, included in the collection, to print new versions of these old enticements to come to the movies.

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The resulting film is calledThe Collection.Highlighted byKottkelast week, it is a short and beautiful account of the care put into creating these blocks and restoring them to their original condition.

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This is a story abouttwo discoveries. The first Almost two decades ago, in the back of an antique shop inOmaha, Nebraska, DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner found dozens of boxes holding, letterpress plates and blocks of movie advertisementsthat chronicled five decades of film history.

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The second Filmmaker Adam Roffman, who had been building his own collection of movie printing blocks, heard about Ginsberg and Wagners collection anddecided to document their painstaking work to catalogue and preserve their collection.

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The collection sat in a backroom for years, until Ginsberg and Wagner found it and bought it for ,. They discovered that the best way to clean the blocks, many of which were covered with a powder of driedup ink, was to wipe their suces with vinegara solution to a conservation challenge.

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For many years, movie advertisements were carved into letterpress blocks and plates. Roffman stumbled across his firstan ad for the filmThe Imitation of Lifeat an antique shop in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he was conducting an interview for a different project. I thought it was beautiful and about a movie, but wasnt sure exactly what it was, he says. He bought the block, started researching its origins, and soon became obsessed. His own collection has grown to blocks.

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The unnamed artist who created the advertisements in the collection fell into the craft while stationed in California during his time in the Navy. When he came home to Nebraska, he opened a letterpress shop, KB Typesetting Co., and his California customers kept sending him work. Plus, as Ginsberg and Wagner note on their website, Omaha was an ideal and central location for shipping work to every part of America. He kept his work and, in the s, sold his collection to an antiques dealer.

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