Caption: “It’s all True.”- The Toff. With apologies to the late and great Terry Thomas.
At the Old Guv Printing Office there were a lot of dirty tricks played upon honest innocent people by their fellow workmates that delighted those sick bastards.
Take Greg (Sluggo) Novice for instance. At tea break we lined up at the tea urn.
Little did we know that Greg had dropped a cake of Solvol soap into the urn. Needless to say that that dirty trick was not taken too well.
Did Greg stop there? No. Another dirty trick by Greg was to ‘cook’ his saveloys in the urn.
When the tea goers poured out the water from the urn – yep the water was pure red.
Warren (Abo) Pietsch would bring in fresh eggs to sell to a small group of comps.
Imagine the next breakfast as the egg buyers began their breakfast of eggs and bacon. They soon discovered that some, not all, had been hard-boiled.
What a dirty trick.
A smart-arse apprentice Mick Mulcahy prided himself as a morning tea thief.
He would lie in wait as Riley washed his hands for morning tea. On returning to his work frame Riley (The Toff) soon discovered that some of his food was missing. What a dirty trick.
Later that week Riley brought in some cockle cakes for his morning tea. What the dirty little trickster was not aware of was the cakes had been doctored and were mouldy inside.
The dirty little trickster never struck again.
Pictured with apologies to Sir Michael Caine from the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
At a Jobbing Room Christmas party Jack Wells was in charge of the beer.
We all handed Jack our bottles and he entered them on a ledger. Rex Unsen put forth two bottles into the register.
At our lunch Merv Clark and Ron Evans donated 12 bottles each to the staff. On seeing this tightarse Rex asked Jack for his two bottles back.
John (The Chinaman) Buckby witnessed this and handed Riley two beer bottles recapped and filled with water.
Buckby then told Riley to switch the bottles and bring back the unopened beer bottles.
Poor old Rex took home two bottles of water. Imagine his face opening the bottles on Christmas Day for his guests.
What a dirty trick to play on tightarse Rex.
Warren (Abo) Pietsch would save the previous week’s sports results out of a copy of The News and place them in the latest edition and then ask Raggsy if he could have a quick look at his paper.
On returning the paper to Raggsy he swapped it for his ‘doctored’ up copy.
What a dirty trick. There’s Raggsy reading his paper on the train and blaming The News for stuffing up the sports results.
One wet winter’s morning, Riley the Toff spied Bob Miller ahead riding his push bike to work in the pouring rain.
To avoid a blocked drain Bob rode his bike onto the footpath. The very cruel Riley then edged his Celica into the gutter and deliberately sprayed Bob with a gigantic wall of water.
What a dirty trick to play on poor old Bob.
by Richard Sheaff.
During the Victorian era, there was an explosion of elaborate typefaces, as foundries outdid themselves to keep up with the demand from printers for novel, splashy type.
The number and variety of imaginative typefaces generated from, say, 1870 to 1900 is astonishing. Many of them—most would agree—went too far, as type designers strove for innovation above all.
Many period fonts are difficult to decipher; some are virtually unreadable.
Wood type letter “E” from an advertisement in the October 20, 1883 issue of the newspaper, Weekly Drug News and American Pharmacist.
Engraved trade card ( Sheaff collection)
But those foundry offerings are not what concerns me here. Rather, I’ve been digging through the shoeboxes looking for examples of quirky, radical, idiosyncratic type usages, constructions (mostly) built by hand.
I’m looking at examples of extreme typography prior to 1900 or so . . . rather than at (equally interesting) later things like Russian Constructivism, Haight-Ashbury or Herb Lubalin.
Here, too, will be found some examples of type-only design solutions.
Guess what English language letter is intended by the red initial cap above (no, it is not in Yiddish)?
Read more via Extreme Typography | Sheaff : ephemera.
The Year was 1968. I was completing my composing apprenticeship with the Griffin Press, Marion Road, Netley.
My foreman was Alf Freeman, a bald Englishman who had come from England to originally work at the Government Printing Office.
Alf had left after a couple of years for the Griffin.
There I met Nick Penn, Colin Rawlings, Rod Baker, Ted Powell, Ken Simpson, Doug Long and Norm Morcombe all who went on to work at the Old Guv from the 1970s onwards.
However, the point of this tale is to get you to look at the above typecating machine, the Nebitype.
It was made by the Nebiolo Company of Italy. The Nebitype was a line casting typesetter that spewed a single lead printing slug around 40 picas in length.
It was vaguely similar to the Ludlow Typesetter.
But there the similarity ended, unlike the Nebitype the Ludlow was a very reliable American typesetting machine.
But there was a problem with the Nebitype during its casting cycle and I suspected there was something up when the tradesmen refused to work it.
It was left up to the apprentices, especially the new ones, like me!
The Nebitype had a mind of its own and would often spray molten lead into the air.
Luckily, there was a comp. called Ken Costello (a ballroom dancing champion) who showed me the Nebitype survival plan.
You would place the setting stick in the jaws of the machine and then everyone would scatter.
Ken Costello had a rope tied to the casting handle and the other apprentices would hide behind a typesetting frame for safety.
Meanwhile, Ken would wave a red warning flag to keep people away.
Before hiding you tugged the rope, uttered a short prayer and the machine would shudder into action.
Did it work properly this time? Was the floor covered with molten lead?
It certainly made life interesting in the Griffin Press comp. room.
Robert Macfarlane on how a sunken lane inspired a handmade book, Holloway
An alchemical question: how do you make a book from a lump of lead? A year ago, I couldn’t have told you. Now I know the answer.
I know because I was fortunate enough to become friends with an artist called Stanley Donwood, a letterpress printer called Richard Lawrence and a young writer called Dan Richards.
Together, we decided to self-publish a slender book called Holloway from first principles.
The first principle being a lump of lead. In short, it worked like this: we melted the lead to cast the hot metal type to set the text to crank the press to print the pages to make the book.
The process was labour-intensive, silvery and arcane. Arcane, because few people still set hot metal type these days. Silvery because lead melts at 327.5C,
And labour-intensive, because every step takes many hours of painstaking effort.
A small book about those old ways, then, to be made in the old ways: raw lead, fresh type, hand-press.
This was where Richard Lawrence’s expertise was invaluable, as making type is fiendish work. You use a large finger-disc keyboard to punch holes in a paper tape about five inches wide.
The text is “input-blind”; the person doing it has only their memory to tell them where they have reached in the text, and whether they’ve made a mistake. All you have to show for hours of wary key-punching is a roll of perforated white paper. That roll is what then instructs the casting machine (in this case a 1955 Monotype caster), which uses brass dies to impress the typeforms on the molten lead.
The font Richard and Stanley chose for the type was Plantin, named after the printer Christophe Plantin, first cut in 1913 and based on a face cut in the 16th century by Robert Granjon.