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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Couple presses on for a dying craft

By Zhang Lei (China Daily)

14:34, February 19, 2012

Li Cong and her husband Josh Durham run a letterpress shop in Beijing. (China Daily/ Liu Xiaozhuo)

They sit in a shop in an alley behind East Gongti Road in Beijing, two bulky machines that seem to belong more to a museum or an art gallery. But for Josh Durham, a history teacher from the US, the movable-type letterpress machines could not have found a better home.

"I wanted somewhere with a window where people could see me work," says Durham, 32. "Not many people in China know what a letterpress is now. I thought it was very important to see a funny little laowai (foreigner) using it."

Amid the modern computer age that threatens the very existence of the letterpress, Durham brought his two machines to the country that helped develop the art of using them during the Song Dynasty almost 1,000 years ago.

Durham's two-story Paper Pounder Press studio opened for business in July. His two letterpresses "Jenny" and "Pearl", which date back to the beginning of the 20th century, are in a corner on the first floor. An exquisite "peerless gem" paper cutter, also more than a century old, stands quietly near the reception desk, on which are stacked letterpress-made birthday and name cards as well as wedding invitations, postcards and posters.

Durham's wife Li Cong came up with the idea of starting the letterpress business, and Durham was instantly drawn to it.

"She has a thousand passions. She is the dreamer and I agreed with starting working on it," he says. "What drew me to the letterpress in the first place was the pace of the work. It is slow and it allows me to create something new. It is a step back in time. I studied history so I am drawn to the history of these machines."

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