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One of two offset presses that see duty at Coach House Printing Ltd. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
One of two offset presses that see duty at Coach House Printing Ltd. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

BROUGHT TO LIGHT

Inside Coach House Press Add to ...

Toronto, Brought to Light: For this summer series, The Globe and Mail's team of award-winning photojournalists get behind the scenes around the city – uncovering what’s hidden, capturing the unexpected, in places they’ve always wanted to go. For more images in this series, visit globeandmail.com.

I'd first wanted to photograph Coach House Press back in 2004, when word was out that the building they occupied on bpNichol Lane might soon be torn down. The landlord from whom they were renting wanted to expand its properties, and the coach house was in an ideal spot. Nothing came of this, and it eventually fell off my radar. In 2009, owner Stan Bevington (the sole proprietor of Coach House Press and Coach House Books) purchased the buildings, and Coach House Press, the company he started in 1965 with a Challenge Gordon platen press, would live on as a part of Toronto’s literary and cultural fabric.

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For Fred Lum`s photos, click here.

The printing process has held sway over me since my first internship in London, Ont., at the Free Press. During the interns’ tour of the building, we made our way to the presses located in the same building, a luxury few papers have today. What I experienced immediately told me I had found my path in life. The press room was a cacophony of machinery, paper and voices. It was loud. I could feel the rumble of the monolithic, five-century-old process through my feet and bones. It was invigorating. Coach House Press, while a much smaller operation, held the same wonder for me when I went to photograph it.

It’s a charming collection of several buildings, each with its own purpose. The printing side is connected to the publishing side by a few doors, a set of stairs and a walkway. The bulk of their printing is done on two Heidelberg presses, but they still use a letter press for some work. Trays of various lead type fonts sit in cabinets beside it. The original Gordon press is still in use today.

Located in a small lane close to the busy intersection of Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West, the buildings are a calm oasis, save for the offset presses that have printed books by writers such as Michael Ondaatje, George Bowering and Allen Ginsberg.

Two hundred books were printed at the press this year on Zephyr Antique Laid, a paper specially milled for Coach House in Quebec.

A staff of 10 (including part-timers) work in the printing side on the press, folder, gluer and cutter machines. Above the din of printing, one can hear the good-natured banter between workers as they continue to produce books that will introduce Canadians to current authors and a new generation of writers yet to make their mark.

 

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