Split sets letterpress world record

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, May 20, 2019

Leeds-based design studio Split has set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest letterpress printing press.

Housed in Split’s studio, The People Powered Press was measured for the record attempt last month by building surveyor Watts.

The measurements were submitted to Guinness along with supporting evidence including photography, film and witness statements and the company received word that its submission had been successful last Thursday (16 May).

With a print area measuring 1,450x940mm, the People Powered Press was made in 2018 as part of These Northern Types, a project exploring northern identity through type.

Built in around four months from design to completion by Batley-based engineering firm JKN OilTools, the press was created to make large-scale, public posters featuring words written by a variety of community groups. The posters are then displayed outdoors, back in their own communities.

“We run this as a not-for-profit, it’s lovely for our profile and we’re really excited about it, but it was never done with the business in mind. We will sell to fund the press and the work that we do on it,” said Split creative director Oli Bentley.

At the invitation of paper manufacturer Fedrigoni, Bentley is setting up the People Powered Press in London for this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week festival.

From Tuesday to Thursday this week (21-23 May), Bentley will tell the story of the press and the wider project and will invite visitors to print their own large posters using the hefty steel letters of Graft, a new typeface designed by Bentley for the press.

The physical set of characters comprising Graft are cut from steel at 720pt, with a set of giant feature numerals measuring 3,480pt, or 1,360mm tall. The typeface takes its inspiration from the cross-section of the I-beams which support many industrial buildings across the north of England.

The festival will also see the digital launch of Graft, making it available for download in four weights.

“We’re thrilled to be announcing this world record as we arrive at Clerkenwell Design Festival,” said Bentley.

“It’s great to be able to introduce the People Powered Press in this hub for the design community and show off the fantastic engineering work that went into it by Ian and the team at JKN, to whom we’re incredibly grateful.

“We’re looking forward then to what the future holds when we get the press back home to Leeds, and I hope the record will help us extend our work with new community groups across the north.”

Established 12 years ago, Split is a specialist design studio with a focus on working in the cultural sectors. Its clients range from educational institutions and the not-for-profit sector, to dance and theatre companies, music labels and arts development organisations.

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