In every profession people date themselves by the work practices or technology in place at the time they entered their chosen field. We say things like "but then, I was a surgeon before they invented anesthesia," or "my first computer filled three rooms, and generated enough heat to power a small city." In the rest of our lives we tend to want to minimize our age and experience, but in things work related, longevity is a badge of honor. That is until you become a cranky old whiner.


As much as I sometimes want to, I can't honestly date myself back to metal pages in any way, shape, or form. I worked in shops that still had letterpress presses, but they made plastic plates from film by then. No, my coming-of-age in the graphic arts is definitely the paste-up era, using magic markers for page layouts and design and color keys for proofs. And though I'm mostly thrilled it's gone, I also feel a little sorry for those who didn't experience it. Paste-up is not a technique that will likely enjoy boutique revival someday, though there is a moderately active market on eBay for old waxers.


Paste-up, in all its glory, was more than just a page-composition technique. It was an art form. It had a social hierarchy of sorts and took place in a unique work environment. When the history of page composition is written, paste-up will be just a footnote compared to the reign of metal and wood (300+ years) or the coming longevity of digital pages. But for anyone who worked in a high-production art department, the memories will linger like the smell of Bestine and hot petrochemicals.

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