Caxton’s printing of The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer.

Portrait of Chaucer from the William Caxton printing of the Canterbury Tales.
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London in the early 1340s.
His father, John, was a wealthy wine-merchant who held a minor position at court.
In 1385 Chaucer moved to Kent, which he represented as a Member of Parliament for three years.
Although he fought as a soldier in France for Edward III and earned his living as a loyal and civil servant, it is as a writer that Chaucer is known today.
Indeed he is often referred to as “the father of English poetry”.
Geoffrey Chaucer is buried in “Poets’ Corner” in Westminster Abbey, London.
Source: Caxton’s Chaucer – The Basics

Hot Metal Type Pictures.

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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.

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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.
See more at this brilliant website via Type pictures | Sheaff : ephemera.

Everard Digby’s The Art of Swimming 1587.

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lllustrations from Everard Digby’s De Arte Natandi (The Art of Swimming) published in 1587, considered the first English treatise on the practice.
Divided into two parts, the first is largely theoretical (Digby wrote in Latin, though it would be translated into English by Christopher Middleton eight years later).
The second part is concerned with practical demonstration borne out in a series of 40 beautiful woodcuts, all composed from five landscape blocks into which swimmers in various positions have been placed.
The work was hugely influential, not just providing a practical guide to staying afloat and different strokes but also in its attention to issues of safety. As the Wellcome Library blog notes: “The work is alive to the dangers of swimming outdoors:
Digby makes careful note of the safest methods of entering rivers, warning against jumping in feet first (particularly if the water has a muddy bottom to which your feet would stick) and advocating a slow and patient entry.
Swimmers are also advised to have a companion with them, to help if they get into difficulties. Digby also advises on the different kinds of water that can be swum in, advising against swimming in murky ponds (in which animals may have been washed).”
Born in 1550, Digby was an academic theologian at Cambridge University, though in 1587, the same year as his swimming treatise was published, he was expelled from his college of St John’s partly due to his habit of blowing a horn and shouting around the College grounds.
Read and See more via The Art of Swimming (1587) | The Public Domain Review.

Albrecht Pfister, Printer and Publisher c.1400s.

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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.
via First Impressions | Albrecht Pfister.

‘PEEFACE’ and other Typos.

peeface-old-book-typoHaving 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.

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Derwombat

The Vandercook Proof Press.

In the early 20th century, printers were still pulling crude proofs from hand presses and simple galley roller presses that depended on gravity for the impression.
In 1909, R.O. Vandercook was the first to develop a geared, rigid-bed cylinder proof press, a machine capable of providing the industry with high-quality proofs from metal types and photoengravings.
The company’s reputation was built on technical innovation and quality construction, and for the next fifty years Vandercook & Sons set the standard for subsequent manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe.
In the 1960s, when offset lithography eclipsed letterpress as the leading commercial printing method, printers began decommissioning their letterpress equipment (often giving it away).
As a result, Vandercook presses began to be adopted by artists and hobbyists for short-run edition printing due to their ease of operation.
Now widely found in art schools and book arts centers, Vandercooks are arguably the press of choice for fine press printers and book artists.
via Vandercook Time Line – Vanderblog.