About Myself

This website serves as my personal portfolio, linking various sides of my public life and offering pointers toward new areas I hope to develop.

I take pleasure in demystifying the latest wireless networking equipment and software for operators and users. And I take equal pleasure casting metal type, setting the pages of a classic text one character at a time, and then printing it onto handmade paper or parchment with an antique cast iron handpress. One gives relatively instant gratification, the other may require months or years before you can hold the final results in your hand. Each feeds me in its own way, and I feel out of balance when one takes more of my time than the other.

My Analog Life: Iron, Paper, Type & Ink

BOOKS – BUT NOT ONLY FOR READING. As a schoolboy I noticed the quality of printing in older, letterpress books with their sturdy cloth bindings and separately printed illustrations. I noted the occasional typo, the letter at the end of the line that seemed to fall off into the margin, the spacers between words that had worked their way up to be inked and printed with the rest of the type. I secretly wished I could have one of the small Kelsey presses that were advertised in the back of comic books.

The wlbentley.com domain was originally the online focal point for my rare and antiquarian bookselling activities and for a singular publishing project: Volumes 8 & 9 of Horace Traubel's series With Walt Whitman in Camden, which was edited by two close friends of mine.

For several years in the mid 1990s, I made a point to attend some of the week-long full-immersion summer courses offered by the Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Terry Belanger's Descriptive Bibliography course placed my own experience with letterpress printing in a centuries-old historical context, and further courses in bibliography, incunabula, and The History of Book Illustration deepened my understanding of printing history. This led me to explore rare bookselling – buying antiquarian books at auction in Europe and selling them via the internet. Over the years, however, bookselling over the internet became something I had not foreseen – something that no longer fed me – and I have abandoned that particular thread for now.

As my interest in bookselling faded, another opportunity arose that went straight to the heart of my bookish essence – the chance to manage the newly revived Petrarch Press. The Press was established as a traditional fine press of the type that produced the luscious Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene Press books I had admired for so many years. Its books are printed by hand on antique iron handpresses, and it continues to thrive.

Most recently, my vision of a fine press with its own proprietary typefaces is moving closer to reality, as we established our own type foundry. Our first major typecasting project, an edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with the original orthography, required us to learn how to engrave new matrices for the eight “long-s” characters the text required.

My Digital Life: Fonts, Pixels & Content Management

COMPUTERS – BUT NOT JUST FOR EMAIL AND FACEBOOK. The typesetting tags I entered on early phototype terminals led me, as a young proofreader and keyboard operator, to learn word processing and COBOL programming on early PCs, which in turn led to SGML-tagged technical documentation for mainframes.

Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign rapidly subsumed all the sophisticated design and layout skills I had struggled to learn in commercial typesetting shops. And Photoshop's levels and curves made Ansel Adams's amazing Zone System practically obsolete. An early version of Fontographer, the font design program, set me firmly in the Macintosh camp before the Mac became the UNIX-powered workhorse it is today.

Knowing SGML eased the way to HTML & CSS, and building a rudimentary back-end system for my book business using PHP and MySQL transformed my natural aversion to ‘mechanical’ databases. Having to evaluate ever-evolving Drupal and WordPress platforms in order to build the new Petrarch Press website solidified my interest in this natural evolution of digital publishing systems. I am not, however, a JavaScript ninja. Still... Python or Django anyone?