Maisie James, AB Dick 360


Her name is Maisie James. Technically, you could say it would be Maisie Kukoc James Albert Blake Dick, but that's a kind of a mouthful to say. Pictured above with a drawing of the family Yorkie named Rorie.

Maisie belonged to my friend and once-professor Mr. Zak Sally at La Mano, and I got her from him in the summer of 2010. He in turn acquired a newer AB Dick model (check it, 1, 2)  which he prints on (like a PRO, hah).

She is an AB Dick 360 Offset Lithography printing press. AB Dick is the name of a printing press company established by Albert Blake Dick, and began with producing the very basic, beginning prototypes of printers called mimeographs, and today produce larger, much slicker digital offset lithography presses. The 360 model, which is very similar to the 350, comes from roughly the 1930's through the 1950's. Possibly a model used for Army production - maybe because of its semi-militant green paint job, and relative ease in transportation. Make no mistake though - this and most other printing presses of this era and beyond weigh in at about 700+ pounds and are no cakewalk to transport.

Offset lithography refers to the type of print reproduction used, in which the image is first transposed to another roller before being set or "offset" on to the paper. In traditional lithography ink is applied directly to the image plate, and the paper applied directly on top of the image and transfered manually with a roller. This method (maybe familiar as the method for many Toulouse Latrec prints) produced only one image at at time. Mechanized offset lithography allows for much faster and cheaper production.

Because of the rapid advancement in print technology, the offset lithography presses of today are much more efficient and fewer and fewer commercial print shops utilize models as old as this. So, yeah. There are a number of old offset presses from the 30's through the 80's, from companies like AB Dick, Ryobi, and Heidelberg, floating in basements and warehouses around after their print shops updated their equipment or went out of business. You can acquire yourself one for a relatively small amount (anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand or two) but running and maintaining a machine like this (especially if it isn't in well-running condition) might cost you a much prettier penny. And transportation, too. There was once a decently-kept AB Dick 350 or 360 in California that needed to be liquidated from someone's storage going for, get this, $1, but the shipping costs to bring it from California to Minnesota would have been around $800 dollars, three times as much as I'd paid for the first one. You may spend a lot money and time tearing out your hair learning to run such a machine, too.

So why run something like this? True, you can run your mini's and your comics off on ANYTHING. A copier, a inkjet, a Print-On-Demand service, and probably save yourself the money required in learning a machine like this. And all those ways of producing comics are perfectly valid - I still love the smell of hot, cheap toner fresh on paper and I will always throw money down for it - but I also love the dirty, inky, messy process of printing them this way. Offset is generally the print process used by major book publishers, utilized for its ability to look quote-unquote perfect. And you can get quotes for commercially printed offset books that will probably run you a lot less than doing it on your own. With Maisie, a small print run costs nearly the same as a large print run, and while I absorb all my own risk for printer fuck-ups and supply costs, it means - at least to me - that I'm creating something closer to an art object than a cleanly-produced product.

And when it's not going horribly wrong - and it can go HORRIBLY wrong - it's an awesome process. It's a hell of a lot fun, and terribly satisfying in the way that getting commercially printed, perfect books is definitely not.

In short, I LOVE HER.