I love old letterpress equipment. When I was a little girl my dad gave me a beautiful wooden toolbox that had a front panel that folded down and slid below to display rows of drawers. The purpose of the drawers was to hold letters for printing. I adored it. Over the years it held many different things, barbie accessories, beads, and later magazine cut outs. Often I come across letterpress type when I'm trolling around antique stores and estate sales. I've always like the number 8, so I've picked up a few 8's along the way.
The art of letterpress dates back to the mid 1400's. It's invention is credited to German born Johannes Gutenberg. His creation used hand carved blocks set together to create words and sentences and pages. Then they printed a relief print, and were taken apart and set again to make the next page. Gutenberg's printing system literally changed the way history was written.
If you are interested in collecting vintage letterpress first off The British Printing Society and The American Printing History Association are member operated organizations and would offer tons of resources. The Early Office Museum had a large variety of online exhibits to view, plus good history. And this blog had a few years worth of various postings about letterpress.
As per usual, I would advise you to check your local library for books about printing history, if you have any questions that need answers. A friendly librarian could point you to the right stack. Amazon.com had some helpful titles; "The Little Book Of Letterpress" and "A Practical Treatise Upon Modern Printing Machinery And Letterpress Printing."
Also, if you are interested in learning the art of letterpress printing there are a lot of schools out there that have brought it back into their curriculum (a resurgence that began in the 90's). If you are looking for such schools, that would for sure be something that your friendly librarian could help you with (as many of these said school's printing classes are connected with their libraries).
Thank you etsy sellers for the use of your beautiful photographs. All the fine letterpress paraphernalia you see here is available for purchase.