Printer maintains antique South Street Seaport tradition

December 8, 2011 3:19:45 PM PST
The South Street Seaport is now a tourist destination. But one printer, Robert Warner pays tribute to what was with his printing shop, Bowne and co.

"This was actually the printing and publishing district during the 19th century," Warner explains. "There were as many as 800 printers in this neighborhood."

Unlike most printers back in the day, Warner did not get into this field as an apprentice at 13. He wandered into Bowne and co. at 39 and started volunteering.

Soon, he learned the art of printing and gave up his job as an optician. He says the two professions overlap.

"The fitting of type into a form is often like fitting eyeglasses to a person's head, he explains. "It just has to be precise without slipping."

All the presses he works with are antique, and some are quite ornate. He uses old, metal or wooden plates, where everything is backwards and upside down, and his ink has the consistency of peanut butter.

Once it is applied, spread and the paper is loaded, the old press is put to work. Each model leaves its personal kiss on paper.

The shop is part of the South Street Seaport Museum. After closing for nearly a year because of budget issues, it opened again with the help of the Museum of The City of New York. They make custom letter press, gift cards, stationery... All great holiday gifts.


Bowne & co.
211 Water Street

South Street Seaport Museum: