Don Black

Don Black, the undisputed tsar of letterpress equipment, has been involved in hot type for over sixty-four years. His career began in 1953 as a Linotype/Intertype apprentice machinist at the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto. A strike there in 1964 marked the waning of the hot-metal typesetting era, but not the end. Don left the Globe and Mail and worked as a freelance machinist before landing a job with the typesetting house of Cooper & Beatty. Don recalls that he didn’t learn a lot about typefaces at the Globe and Mail but his experiences at Cooper & Beatty honed his eye for typography. I asked Don what his favourite typeface is and he answered, without hesitation, ‘Palatino, because it’s a legible and versatile typeface.’

In 1974, Don started his own full-time business, appropriately named Don K. Black Linecasting Service Ltd. In a twist of fate, in 1978 he acquired most of the composing room at the Globe and Mail.

The business of letterpress has changed from a commercial process to a fine-art technique and this has adected the demand for letterpress equipment and tools. Don believes, as do I, that there is an intrinsic artistic quality to letterpress printing that transcends other printing techniques. The bite of the type into paper is a unique quality of letterpress that makes it the crème de la creème for fine press printing. It is Don’s passion for letterpress that has driven him to preserve and disseminate its virtues to a whole new generation of letterpress enthusiasts.

Don, together with his wife, Ruth, and now their son, Craig, and office manager, Albert Kwon, have been restoring and selling printing equipment to customers around the world for more than fifty years.

—George A. Walker

The Devil's Artisan would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

Don Black Magnify

Don Black

Credit: George A. Walker