“The Smelly Melting Pot.”

42_19522This is not me. The bloke pictured here is about nine inches taller than me, handsome and built like a “brick shithouse”.
One of my first jobs of a morning when I entered the “dog box” which we called the Comp Room at National Paper Industries. Port Road, was to switch on the Lead melting pot.
It was electrically operated and would melt the lead slugs from the Ludlow typesetter which had been dissed from the completed print jobs.
It was a dirty job and of course was left to the “shit boy” to do. That was me…
Depending on what went into the pot the smell could become a bit rank, but generally it was cigarette butts, and the occasional sweepings off the shop floor.
At one point in the process I had to open the lid to whack some flux in, which supposedly would help clean the lead, antimony and tin that made up printer’s lead.
One Monday morning I flicked the switch on and went about my business.
I never knew that on the Friday night before all the bosses, arse crawlers and office staff had organised a huge piss-up after work.
Unfortunately, on their way down to the factory toilets a number of them had spotted the open melting pot (not working) and being lazy bastards had relieved themselves on top of the type metal in the pot.
The smell that came crawling out of the pot as the stale urine turned to steam was unbearable and I vomited into the pot setting up a chain reaction which had vomit tainted lead splatter flying around the comp room.
I survived that horrible day and we got a lock to make sure the lid couldn’t be opened when we weren’t on guard.
I was not happy…

Adelaide’s Weekend Newspaper “The Mail.”

The Mail was founded in 1912 by Clarence Moody. Moody initially set up three newspapers – the Sporting Mail, Saturday Mail and the Mail. The first two titles lasted only two years and five years respectively.
The Mail went into liquidation in late 1914. Ownership passed briefly to George Annells and Frank Stone, and then to Herbert Syme.
In May 1923, News Limited purchased the Mail and moved the newspaper to North Terrace.
By this time the newspaper had developed a strong sporting focus. Results of weekend sporting matches of all types and grades were reported in the Mail.
A particular focus was given to football and horse racing, with many fine sporting photographs and articles being printed. West Torrens footballer and yachtsman Ossie O’Grady became sports writer in 1926 and wrote sometimes controversial sporting feature articles.
In the 1930s Ron Boland began his newspaper career as the horse racing writer, ‘Trafalgar’.
He was later to become editor of the News. Early motoring was another important feature of the newspaper from the 1920s, as was the advent of commercial radio and aviation.
From 1922 under the editorship of George Brickhill, the Mail was a well-presented newspaper with quality reading on a range of topics. No doubt the professionally presented real-estate pages helped fund the improvements.
The much-loved ‘Possum’s pages’ were born in 1921 as ‘the Mail Club’ with letters to ‘Clubmates’ written by ‘Possum’. The page was called ‘Mates own corner’. In 1924 May Gibbs’s gumnut babies, ‘Bib and Bub,’ were the first full-scale comic page in the Mail. They were joined in 1932 by Bancks’s Ginger Meggs.
During the Second World War Lionel Coventry’s ‘Alec the Airman’ joined the pages of the paper. Colour was introduced to the comics at the end of the war. Oswald Pryor was cartoonist for the Mail in 1922-1923, followed by Hal Gye and, in the late 1920s, R. W. Blundell. Harry Longson was cartoonist during the war years.
The Second World War had a major impact on many things, not least on newspaper reporting and production. Although horse racing and other sports were still covered in the pages of the Mail, space was also given to war news and the activities of the armed forces.
During the war the ‘Gossip by Deidre’ page gave way to the less frivolous ‘Diana’s notebook’ with photographs such as ‘Miss Patricia Hubbard at work in her father’s factory’ and other reflections of women’s war effort activities. Even the ‘Suburban acre’ gardening page took on a more serious tone as ‘Weeders digest’.
The paper’s name changed to the SA Sunday Mail on 6th February 1954, and then Sunday Mail in 1955. The original 1912 circulation of 15,000 had risen to 213,000 by 1962.
For its first 60 years the Mail was printed on Saturday nights. Initially two editions were published, with a ‘street’ edition coming out at about 7 pm, followed by a midnight edition which was sold to theatre crowds later in the evening, and distributed throughout the state on Sunday mornings.
The Sunday Mail was first published on a Sunday on 5th November 1972.
Inspired by Rob and Wendy Powell.
via Sunday Mail (Adelaide) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Printing in Medieval Venice c.1490s.


Venice, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). JRL R1786.

Medieval Venice was a major city state and an important trading port where East met West.

Situated on a marshy lagoon at the head of the Adriatic Sea, for centuries it had traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim World.

By the late thirteenth century, Venice was the most prosperous city in Europe, and with its powerful navy it dominated Mediterranean commerce.

Goods such as silk and spices, incense, opium and herbs were traded, imported from Africa and Asia and distributed throughout Europe by Venetian traders.

With their immense wealth Venice’s leading families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and to patronize the most talented artists and craftsmen.

It was a city that embraced the new technology of printing with great enthusiasm.

The opportunity for profit offered by this wealthy trading city, rather than a reputation for scholarship and intellect, attracted printers such as Nicolas Jenson to Venice.

Aldus Manutius was the most successful Venetian printer in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

via First Impressions | Venice.

The Madness of Hot Metal Piecework.

I WAS working on an Intertype at the Walthamstow Guardian when I managed to get a ‘Grass’ on the Sunday Telegraph (this meant working the Saturday as a casual operator) through a fellow operator who put in a word, knowhatimean?
It was a real closed society when I started, no-one told new people anything and bearing in mind that it was piecework and a docket had to be filled out for every slug of type set and there were three separate type of charges this meant you were really in the dark.
Eventually one of the older regular operators took pity on me and showed me how to charge my work, anyway that is what I thought until I found he was copying what I was charging and also charging it himself!
Anyway, I persevered not knowing if I would be called back the next Saturday until last knockings Saturday night.
Hardly any of the regulars spoke to us lower forms of life but I needed the money so I kept my head down until out of the blue I was asked if I was interested in a ‘spike’ on the Daily Telegraph night shift (called the Continunity).
As this trebled my wages from the Walthamstow Guardian I didn’t say no. When I told me wife she said that I shouldn’t take that amount of money each week as it was too much!
When I started I wasn’t allowed to write a piece docket until they felt I was fast enough (and could earn enough) for their pooled piece work. Then they had a Chapel meeting (without me) to decide if they wanted me in.
Fortunately they voted me in and I was there for the next 15 years.
When I started I made the mistake of putting up my own ingot and got jumped on by the local Natsopa bloke whose sole job it was to do that.
I also learned that the liners mustn’t be changed by the operators, although we were allowed to fix the disser stops and splashes.
Most of the machines were Linotype 48s with later Intertypes with Mohr saws for the ads in the ‘Monkey House’ (a small room attached to the Linotype room).
The Chapel ruled the whole area and the Printers kept their heads down, this encouraged the characters of the department (mostly compositors as we were too busy writing our dockets earning money). There were untold ‘trots’ (I think wind-up would be a contempory analagy)
A good one was a reel of toy gun ‘caps’ strapped round the main drive cog so when a line is sent away a machine gun like effect took place, this almost stopped the operator writing a charge, but in the end we developed a charge specially for this event!
The Father of the Chapel was the King of the whole place and to be truthful he didn’t do a lot of work, but he did the negotiating so he was given that privilege. He approved hiring and firing and untold numbers of Chapel Meetings.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed every night I went to work and looking back how privileged we were to be in that position for such a long time. Eventually it all went t*ts up, but these things happen, it certainly gave me a good living for a long period of time and was the best place I have ever ‘worked.’
Read more via Metal Type – Fleet Street Piecework.

Melbourne printing museum goes under the hammer.

The biggest event to occur in a generation or more was the auction of the Melbourne Museum of Printing at the end of November.
While Australia has a great number of printing museums scattered around the country, there has only really been one that could lay claim to being a national printing museum: the Melbourne Museum of Printing. This museum was the collection personally created by Michael Isaacson in the hope that there would be a significant and lasting collection of our printing history available.
I had first met Isaacson when I visited his warehouse in the early Eighties. Someone once commented to me that he was an omnivorous collector—a hoarder, even—who, through his all-encompassing collecting, had prevented others from getting equipment, especially individuals who wanted to set up letterpress printeries.
Quite the opposite, I believe. For Isaacsen originally set himself up as a vendor of letterpress machinery and equipment.
From what I have been told—I was never close or in touch with Isaacsen though I visited and was given the Grand Tour on several occasions—his family owned a property in the country outside of Melbourne.
He discovered the Adana when young and his interest over the years developed into what eventually became the Melbourne Museum of Printing.
This was at a time when people couldn’t get rid of printing machinery and equipment fast enough. Often it was sold for scrap if only to prevent someone from setting up in competition knocking out business cards and letterheads. I remember well one printery which started off as a private press and which had smashed up their Albion for scrap, keeping only the base to use as a stone.
This was the general climate at the time. The dissolution of the New South Wales Government Printing Office in 1989 was part of a wave of closures of these massive and historic printeries throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Another fire sale of Australian printing history. Such printeries had histories which went back to the early years of the colonies to before we became Australia and often contained historic machinery and equipment going back to these early times.
I believe that Isaacsen’s massive and historically important collection of Monotype mats were from the collection of the New South Wales Government Printer. And, no doubt, much else of what was in the collection came from similar sources.
Source: Association of European Printing Museums ~ Australian national printing museum goes under the hammer

The Peterborough Times Print Museum.

dsc_0034Photo: Ray Belt instructs Peter Plowman on the technical aspects of  running the Heidelberg Cylinder.
Our trip to see the “Petersburg Times Print Museum” in the South Australian country town of Peterborough was a huge success.
Why was it called the “Petersburg Times?” The paper was started in the nineteenth century at a time when the town was known as Petersburg. The town was a victim of anti-German sentiment during the First World War and was re-named to Peterborough.
The print shop operated continuously for more than 100 years and along with the machinery and hot metal type are a huge collection of ‘job dockets’ – a pristine record of everything printed for many decades dating from the 1920s onwards.
Front page of the Times during the 1920s.
Ray Belt (Printer), Rod Parham (Comp), Peter Plowman (Printer), Jack Flack (Planner) and Helen Flack traveled to Peterborough on 27 September to link up with Judy Evans, Secretary of the Print Museum History Group and its wonderful members.


Photo: Ray Belt, Peter Plowman, Helen Flack and Judy Evans.
Photo: The Museum has a Wharfedale printing press pictured above. The first Wharfedale was built in England in 1856.
The Print Shop is virtually in the same condition as it was left in 2001 when the owner walked out the door for the last time.
There is a Heidelberg Cylinder and Platen, a Wharfedale Press, Intertype Model C (four magazine) and a fantastic range of old metal handset type and wooden type.
Above: An Intertype Hot Metal typesetter. The Intertype was the British version of the American Linotype.
Photo: The wood fired hot metal furnace which is situated at the rear of the print shop.

Print Shop Address: 9-11 Jervois Street, Peterborough.

Open: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – 10 am to 2 pm. or by Appointment.

Telephone: 08 8651 2011 or 08 8651 2047.

Entry: $5 per person.

Rod Parham

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.


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

Everard Digby’s The Art of Swimming 1587.

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.


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.