Here are some old and enduring Technical terms relating to early books and printing.
Black-letter: A name (which came into use around 1600) for the form of type Gothic used by early printers, as distinguished from the ‘Roman’ type, which later prevailed.
Blockbook: A book in which each page was printed from a single block of wood, onto which both text and images were carved in reverse. Although it is often thought that blockbooks preceded the invention of printing from movable metal type, most surviving examples date from the period 1460 to 1480.
Breviary: A book containing the texts used to celebrate Divine Office each day by members of monastic orders and clergy, consisting of Psalms, Collects, and readings from Scripture and the lives of the Saints.
Catchword: A word printed at the end of a quire (a section of folded pages in order) to indicate the first word of the next page; if the catchword does not tally with the first word, this suggests that a leaf is missing, or that the quires have been bound in the wrong order.
Chase: A rectangular metal frame into which a forme, or body of type is locked, using wedges or quoins, ready for printing.
Colophon: A statement at the end of a book containing some or all of the following: name of the work, author, printer, place of printing, date. It is sometimes accompanied by a printer’s device or mark. This information was later carried on the title page.
Compositor: A person who sets, corrects and distributes type.
Pressman: The work of a person operating a hand-press.
Distributing type: Returning the individual sorts to their cases, after they have been printed. Often shortened to ‘dissing’.
Forme: The forme is the body of type, locked by the compositor into a frame called a chase, ready for printing.
Font: A complete set of upper- and lower-case letters, figures, punctuation marks and symbols, cast in one size and typeface. Typically a font would contain sufficient type to enable a printer to set several pages at one time.
Galley A three-sided shallow metal tray onto which type is transferred from a composing-stick for holding composed matter before it is split up into pages.
Galley proofs are proofs on long sheets of paper, of composed matter before it is made up into page.
Daniel in the lion’s den, from the Historie von Joseph, Daniel, Judith und Esther (Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, 1462), f.19r. JRL 9375.
Pfister is an even more shadowy figure than Johann Gutenberg, and what is known of him comes from analysis of the nine editions he is generally thought to have printed.
Trained as a cleric, he worked in Bamberg, Germany, and by 1460 he was acting as secretary to the prince-bishop of the city.
As a printer he is credited with being responsible for two innovations in the use of the new technology: printing books in the German language, and printing woodcut illustrations at the same time as the type.
He produced the first printed editions of popular German stories, Der Ackermann aus Boehmen, a poetic dialogue between the ‘Ploughman’ and ‘Death’ who has deprived him of his young wife, and a collection of fables entitled Der Edelstein.
The John Rylands Library holds the only complete examples in Britain of books printed by Pfister, including his Historie von Joseph, Daniel, Judith und Esther and the Biblia Pauperum of 1462.
Having worked in the printing industry you do see some very weird things from time to time.
In the days of hot metal at least it was some fun.
I can remember a bloke who had been at the pub for his dinner break.
He went back to work pissed and then decided to throw a paragraph of hot metal type away so that he could get the front page of the daily newspaper to fit.
Only problem was that if you were reading the lead article on the front page and turned the page it disappeared.
He got the boot for that.
When I was a young apprentice and being a Protestant and not being familiar with the terminology of the Catholic Church I read the abbreviation “Fr.” in a Funeral Notice as meaning “Friar” (as in Tuck) and set it accordingly.
The Priest presiding at the service was most unimpressed.
Anyway, here is another big Stuff Up…read the caption below carefully.
One panel of a folder for a tea merchant. This is an amazingly creative piece of work, with letters formed from “printers flowers” and border elements, and the letters made structural parts of a scene constructed in Oriental style metal type elements:
Combination Chinese Border Series 91, Patented January 18, 1881 by MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, designed and cut by William W. Jackson.
Letterpress “type pictures”—scenes constructed from metal type elements—became particularly common during the 1870s and 1880s, especially with the popularity of Oriental, Egyptian, Assyrian, Moorish, Chinese and Japanese motif type elements. (
During that era, lithographers also produced Oriental, etc. themed pieces, but I am here focusing on work done by typesetters/letterpress printers.)
As with all “creative” arrangements of type, the quality varied. Some typesetters created lively and interesting scenes, while less talented workers seemed to have thrown together elements rather randomly.
There is a lot of cringingly poor work out there to be found.
Trade card. This printer, Harding, put together a little scene unusual in that five colors were used.
Most of the metal type elements are from Combination Chinese Border Series 88, Patented September 30, 1879 by MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, designed and cut by William W. Jackson.
An amazing photo from the Old Guv comp room, King William Road.
Sadly, a number of the people here are no longer with us....
From Left to Right: John “Macca” McInerney (obscured), Kevin “Dago” Stack-Neale, Rod “Sam” Lawn, John “Rags” Elsdon, Don “Keyhole” Guscott, Takis “Tarkey” Lavithis, Albert Wellman, Warren “a.b.o.” Pietsch, George Davis (standing in background), Syd Ball (distant background), Harry “The Horse” Kinder (background and seated).
Front: Jimmy Tennant and Mark McInnes.
Those who have passed on are Takis, Albert, George, Syd, Harry, Takis, Warren and Jimmy.