The Oxford University Press.

OxfordUniversityPressImage: Oxford University Press
Oxford’s Chancellor Archbishop William Laud consolidated the legal status of the university’s printing in the 1630s.
Laud envisaged a unified Press of world standing. Oxford would establish it on university property, govern its operations, employ its staff, determine its printed work, and benefit from its proceeds.
To that end, he petitioned Charles I for rights that would enable Oxford to compete with the Stationers’ Company and the King’s Printer, and obtained a succession of royal grants to aid it. These were brought together in Oxford’s “Great Charter” in 1636, which gave the university the right to print “all manner of books.”
Laud also obtained the “privilege” from the Crown of printing the King James or Authorized Version of Scripture at Oxford.  This “privilege” created substantial returns in the next 250 years, although initially it was held in abeyance.
The Stationers’ Company was deeply alarmed by the threat to its trade, and lost little time in establishing a “Covenant of Forbearance” with Oxford. Under this, the Stationers paid an annual rent for the university not to exercise its full printing rights – money Oxford used to purchase new printing equipment for smaller purposes.
Laud also made progress with internal organization of the Press. Besides establishing the system of Delegates, he created the wide-ranging supervisory post of “Architypographus”: an academic who would have responsibility for every function of the business, from print shop management to proofreading.
The post was more an ideal than a workable reality, but it survived (mostly as a sinecure) in the loosely structured Press until the 18th century. In practice, Oxford’s Warehouse-Keeper dealt with sales, accounting, and the hiring and firing of print shop staff.
Laud’s plans, however, hit terrible obstacles, both personal and political. Falling foul of political intrigue, he was executed in 1645, by which time the English Civil War had broken out. Oxford became a Royalist stronghold during the conflict, and many printers in the city concentrated on producing political pamphlets or sermons.
Some outstanding mathematical and Orientalist works emerged at this time – notably, texts edited by Edward Pococke, the Regius Professor of Hebrew – but no university press on Laud’s model was possible before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.
It was finally established by the Vice-Chancellor John Fell, Dean of Christ Church, Bishop of Oxford, and Secretary to the Delegates.
Fell regarded Laud as a martyr, and was determined to honour his vision of the Press. Using the provisions of the Great Charter, Fell persuaded Oxford to refuse any further payments from the Stationers and drew all printers working for the university onto one set of premises.
This business was set up in the cellars of the new Sheldonian Theatre, where Fell installed printing presses in 1668, making it the university’s first central print shop.
A type foundry was added when Fell acquired a large stock of typographical punches and matrices from the Dutch Republic – the so-called “Fell Types”. He also induced two Dutch typefounders, Harman Harmanz and Peter de Walpergen, to work in Oxford for the Press.
Finally, defying the Stationers’ demands, Fell personally leased the right to print from the university in 1672, in partnership with Thomas Yate, Principal of Brasenose, and Sir Leoline Jenkins, Principal of Jesus College.
Read on via Oxford University Press – Wikipedia

1952: The Argus makes World History with Colour.

On Monday 28 July 1952, the Melbourne Argus became the first newspaper in the world to print in full colour.
In what was a technological marvel for its time, there were coloured photos of sporting events on the front and back pages.
The front page banner was printed in garish alternate blue and red block letters, which hopefully has never been repeated.
This was accompanied by a photo of the AV Hiskens steeplechase at Moonee Valley the previous Saturday.
Front cover of Melbourne’s Argus newspaper, printed in colour, showing horse jumps racing
The Argus, Monday 28 July 1952, Front Page.
The Argus wrote “Here’s a picture that makes news – and newspaper history, too.
It is the first time ever that a newspaper anywhere in the world has produced a high-speed action news picture in color [sic] within hours of the event. It proves that color [sic] news photography for daily journalism is a practical proposition and no longer a newspaper-man’s dream.”
via Picture makes history! The Argus newspaper in colour.

Landsborough Print Museum.

photoSince volunteering at the Lansborough Museum I have been able to “demonstrate” the operation of this old model Intertype to visiting primary school children.
They were actually interested and amazed that a 96 year old machine still worked.
I have located the manufacture date, which the museum was very pleased about which was 26 Oct 1918.
About Landsborough.
The area was first settled in 1871 by Issac Burgess. At the time the settlement was known as Mellum Creek. It became a stopping point for Cobb & Co on the route from Brisbane to the new goldfields at Gympie. By 1877 Mellum Creek had a two storey hotel, a store and a butchers shop to service the passing trade and the local residents.
In 1890 the rail line through town was opened and the name changed to Landsborough after the explorer William Landsborough (1825-1886). He was the first explorer to cross the continent from north to south and was also one of the people chosen to lead expeditions to find Burke and Wills.
Landsborough was a logging town and the logs which had previously been either milled here or floated down the Mellum Creek could now be sent by train, so in 1890 Campbell and Sons moved their mill from Landsborough to Albion.
Always slightly overshadowed by it’s bigger neighbours Landsborough retains the charm of a small town, in the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland.
via Historical Landsborough | Landsborough.

Claude Garamond, Type Designer.

I first fell in love with the Garamond typeface in my first year of apprenticeship because the Ludlow Company put out a very passable version of this  wonderful typeface  for their typesetting machine.
Here is a short article on Claude Garamond.
Born in Paris, France in 1490, Garamond started his career out as an apprentice for the Parisian punch-cutter and printer, Antoine Augereau in 1510 . It was during this early part of the 16th century that Garamond and his peers found that the typography industry required unique multi-talented people.
This way they could produce fine books. Many of the printers during that time period were able to master all or most of the artistic and technical skills of book production from type design to bookbinding. Claude Garamond was first to specialise in type design, punch cutting, and type-founding in Paris as a service to many famous publishers.
After a decade of success with his types all over Europe, King Francois I of France demanded that Garamond produce a Greek typeface, which later became known as “Grecs du Roi”.
The three fonts were modeled after the handwriting of Angelos Vergetios, and cut the largest size first, on a 16 point body. All three original sets of Royal Greek punches are preserved at the Imprimerie Nationale in Paris, France.
In 1545 Garamond became his own publisher, featuring his own types including a new italic. His first book published was Pia et religiosa Meditatio of David Chambellan. As publisher, Claude Garamond relied on his creativity harnessed by reasoned discipline to produce superbly well crafted products.
He modeled his book publishing style after the classic works of the Venetian printers who catered to the absolute elites of high society.
He admired and emulated the works of Aldus Manutius. Garamond insisted on clarity in design, generous page margins, quality composition, paper and printing , which was always accentuated with superb binding.
Because of the soundness of Garamond’s designs his typefaces have historical staying power, and they are likely to remain the day-to-day tools of professional typographers, as long as western civilization survives.
Reading a well set Garamond text page is almost effortless, a fact that has been well known to book designers for over 450 years.
Claude Garamond’s contribution to typography was vast, a true renaissance man.
Creating perfection in the type that he crafted his life will live on through his contribution to typography.
via The Biography of Claude Garamond.

Great Cover Design for Exide Catalog,1940.


This is another quick stop to appreciate a job-well-done, a wonderful illustration for a largish catalog (12×9 inches) for Exide Electric Storage Battery Company (Philadelphia), which was printed in 1940.
It would be simple to have a plain text cover for this sort of thing, being batteries and all, but Exide went the extra step and had designed for them this wonderful cover.
It seems to transfer the reliance of their battery in the dark and cold environment via the working trains, their lights working, safe and secure.
It is understated and very effective.
via JF Ptak Science Books: Superior Cover Design: Battery Catalog, 1940.

What Causes the Smell of Old Books?

shakespeareEveryone’s familiar with the smell of old books, the weirdly intoxicating scent that haunts libraries and second-hand book stores.
Similarly, who doesn’t enjoy riffling through the pages of a newly purchased book and breathing in the crisp aroma of new paper and freshly printed ink? As with all aromas, the origins can be traced back to a number of chemical constituents, so we can examine the processes and compounds that can contribute to both.
As far as the smell of new books goes, it’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint specific compounds, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there seems to be a scarcity of scientific research that’s been carried out on the subject – to be fair, it’s understandable why it might not exactly be high up on the priority list.
Secondly, the variation in the chemicals used to manufacture books also means that it’s an aroma that will vary from book to book. Add to this the fact that there are literally hundreds of compounds involved, and it becomes clearer why it evades attribution to a small selection of chemicals.
It’s likely that the bulk of ‘new book smell’ can be put down to three main sources: the paper itself (and the chemicals used in its manufacture), the inks used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the book-binding process.


The manufacture of paper requires the use of chemicals at several stages. Large amounts of paper are made from wood pulp (though it can also be made from cotton and textiles) – chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, often referred to in this context as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase pH and cause fibres in the pulp to swell.
The fibres are then bleached with a number of other chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide; then, they are mixed with large amounts of water. This water will contain additives to modify the properties of the the paper – for example, AKD (alkyl ketene dimer) is commonly used as a ‘sizing agent’ to improve the water-resistance of the paper.
Many other chemicals are also used – this is just a very rough overview. The upshot of this is that some of these chemicals can contribute, through their reactions or otherwise, to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, the odours of which we can detect.
The same is true of chemicals used in the inks, and the adhesives used in the books. A number of different adhesives are used for book-binding, many of which are based on organic ‘co-polymers’ – large numbers of smaller molecules chemically chained together.
As stated, differences in paper, adhesives, and inks used will influence the ‘new book smell’, so not all new books will smell the same – perhaps the reason why no research has yet attempted to definitively define the aroma.
Read more via What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books? | Compound Interest.