Letterpress Heritage –

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June – 2018

In search of Letterpress

Ask anyone who has a passion for letterpress printing if they have enough type, presses, furniture or ink in their collection – they will probably answer – no!

The search for redundant presses, type and equipment continues worldwide – little by little small studios and print workshops are gathering the lost fragments of the printing industry and bringing it back to life. ‘Restoration through use’ is a phrase echoing across the globe – the letterpress community is helping to ensure that printing’s heritage is not lost.

I have been searching for over three decades for serviceable printing equipment. At times I have been very lucky, but it’s beginning to get much, much harder to find. Internet auction sites display cases of wooden type split, with sales of individual letters as apposed to usable cases – after all, it’s more profitable to sell off letters one-by-one! Coupled to this, avid dealers are traveling the UK (and far beyond) gathering up the remains of our printing heritage as quick as they can find it. In recent years prices have rocketed and now a complete case of wooden type can fetch as much as £300, with small proofing presses receiving bids in excess of £4000. I am concerned that soon contemporary printers will not have the budget to support the development of their collections – so the race is on.

Even though it’s getting more difficult the Studio B answer to the initial question is definitively no (we don’t quite have enough yet), so our quest (getting progressively harder) will continue…

Miller & Richard

A rather full lock-up.

The first items I collected were individual letters purchased from ‘antique fairs’ and ‘car boot sales’ followed by complete cases of type from on-line auctions (back then it was easily affordable). Wherever my travels took me, there would always be opportunity to increase the collection if only, one letter at a time.

Hours have been spent scanning junk shops and small ads in newspapers and from time to time has resulted in a haul of type being found. The process is a little like metal detecting, lot’s of little leads often resulting in little or nothing but occasionally the odd treasure is found. My finds have included – a wellington boot full of four point type from a lay preacher in Devon, some illuminated letters from a farmer in Scotland and the latest find, a Peerless treadle press from a retired printer in Somerset. Some expensive, some cheap, and some on the very odd occasion free, gifted to what has been deemed (by some) as a very good cause.

With the Studio B collection in mind, if you are reading this text and have an old press resting in a garage, or a case of type in the loft gathering dust, please do get in contact – better it gets used, enjoyed and the heritage of printing can be passed on to following generations of ‘would be’ printers.

Studio B – telephone: 01823 401 302 / email: carlmiddleton@neatdesign.org

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July – 2018

D. Stevens Printers – St Ives

Lino

I was recently contacted by a printing workshop based in St Ives (Cornwall) where the owner was in the process of retiring from the printing industry. The photograph above shows his wonderful (working) Linotype machine – this is one of the items he is hoping to sell (fingers crossed it goes to a good home where it continues to be employed). Sadly I don’t have enough space in my workshop to accommodate it. I did purchase a few cases of type and furniture and plan to go back and collect a rather large (double height) type cabinet and more type cases to fill it!

If you are looking for a printer’s stone, a large Arab treadle press, galley racks, printing cabinets and type there is still a lot on offer – the contact details are:

Anthony Stephens – telephone: 07786 809 849 – email: antstevens62@hotmail.co.uk

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November – 2018

Linotype Saved!

Fingers crossed a buyer may have been found for the Linotype and it will be heading its way east to become part of the collection of working printing equipment at Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre. http://www.amberleymuseum.co.uk/

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January – 2019

The expanding type collection

Studio B was very pleased to be donated four cabinets of metal type (100 cases). We have been steadily working to catalogue this new edition to our collection and have been enjoying experimenting with the contents –

The new editions to Studio B include complete cases of:

  • Bell: 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Bell italic: 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Bembo: 11 / 12 / 18 / 24 / 30 / 36 point
  • Bembo italic: 11 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 30 / 36 point
  • Bembo titling: 30 point
  • Garamond: 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Garamond italic: 14 / 18 / 36 point
  • Gill light: 12 / 14 point
  • Gill: 10 / 12 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 48 / 60 / 72 point
  • Gill medium: 14 / 18 point
  • Gill bold: 10 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Gill extra bold: 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Goudy: 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Perpetua: 12 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Perpetua titling: 24 / 36 / 60 / 72 point
  • Plantin: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Plantin roman: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 point
  • Plantin italic: 10 / 12 / 14 / 18 / 24 / 36 / 72 point
  • Times: 10 / 12 / 18 / 24 point
  • Times bold: 24 / 36 point
  • Trafton script: 24 point

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June – 2019

Researching Printing History – South West

In searching through the Somerset Records office I came across a number of documents recording a huge number of printing companies working throughout the south west. The Master Printers Annual 1965 lists 28 members in Somerset alone:

  • Albert E. Allen – Weston-super-Mare
  • Barnicotts – Taunton
  • Bigwood & Staple Ltd – Bridgwater
  • Cannell, Ball & Co – Weston-super-Mare
  • Castle Cary Press – Castle Cary
  • Clare, Son & Co Ltd – Wells
  • C & J. Clark Ltd – Street
  • Colourprint Services Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Cox Sons & Co – Williton
  • W. B. Frampton & Sons Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Hammett & Co Ltd – Taunton
  • Hyssett & Son Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Lawrence Bros Ltd – Weston-super-Mare
  • Robert W. Lee Ltd – Bridgwater
  • G & M Organ – Wrington
  • Patey & Co – Burnham-on-Sea
  • W. R. Pettigrew – Wells
  • Rockwell Printers – Wellington
  • Shearn Bros & Co – Burnham-on-Sea
  • Edwin Snell & Sons Ltd – Yeovil
  • Watchet Printing Co – Watchet
  • Waterman & Son – Stoke-sub-Hamdon
  • Wellington Printers – Wellington
  • Western Gazette Co Ltd – Yeovil
  • Young & Sons – Chard

There were a number of south west based colleges who provided training for the printing industry including: Somerset College of Art (Department of Printing – Mount Street, Taunton). The annual lists the following courses available in Taunton:

  • Line composition – evenings only
  • Monotype Keyboard – evenings only
  • Compositors’ work – day release
  • Letterpress machine – day release
  • Photography – day release
  • Litho artists – day release
  • Litho machine – day release
  • BFMP Technical Knowledge – evenings only
  • Order Clerk’s Work – block release and evening class options
  • Diploma Art & Design – full time and block release options
  • City & Guilds: typo. design – day release

Studio B’s printing press was purchased from Somerset College and would have had its origins in the department of print in Mount Street. The photograph below shows the newly constructed art and design block built when the art college joined the technical college in the early 1970s.

1970

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July – 2019

New arrivals for Studio B

Five new cases of metal letterpress type were delivered today:

  • Bembo: 18 point
  • Clarendon bold: 30 point
  • Dorchester script: 18 point
  • Rockwell heavy condensed: 30 point
  • Gothic condensed: 36 point

We look forward to experimenting with some interesting additions to our collection.

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© Carl Middleton – 2019

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