Luke Pontifell believes in the power of the printed word.
Thirty-two years ago, when he was only sixteen, Pontifell founded Thornwillow, a printer and publisher of handmade, limited-edition books. What began as a labor of love — and many summers spent printing and hand-binding his creations — has since blossomed into a community of craftspeople working out of a complex of nineteenth-century factory buildings in Newburgh, NY. “The daily life at Thornwillow is an elaborate choreography of editing, design, letterpress printing and binding,” he says.
In 2016, Thornwillow launched its first Kickstarter project for a collection of broadsides, single-sheet publications popularized in the eighteenth century. “Historically, broadsides were the blogs, the posts of their day,” Pontifell says. “The Declaration of Independence, for example, first appeared printed in a broadside format that was distributed throughout the new United States.”
Pontifell recently launched his eighth Kickstarter project, a portfolio of letterpress broadsides entitled Subversion. The set of ten contains history-making texts like “A Rat Surrendered Here,” by Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” and comes in an archival portfolio.
“Art communicates not just to the present, but to the future. It resonates with our subversive instinct and has the power to turn history,” he says of the collection. “In this age of disposable and intangible communications, the beautifully printed word is [...] the most powerful way of making ideas count.”