Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type and Borders (1874)
Some select pages from the exquisite Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc. (1874), a specimen book produced by the William H. Page wood type company.
Chromatic types, which were made to print in two or more colours, were first produced as wood type by Edwin Allen, and shown by George Nesbitt in his 1841 Fourth Specimen of Machinery Cut Wood Type.
It is William H Page’s book, however, that is considered to be the highpoint of chromatic wood type production.
As well as providing over 100 pages of brilliantly coloured type, the book can also be seen, at times, to act as some sort of accidental experimental poetry volume, with such strange snippets as “Geographical excursion knives home” and “Numerous stolen mind” adorning its pages.
One wonders whether the decisions about what words to feature and in what order were entirely arbitrary.
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.
Born 1706–Died 1775, English type designer and printer.
He and Caslon were the two great type designers of the 18th century in England.
He began his work as printer and publisher in 1757 and in 1758 became printer to the University of Cambridge.
Baskerville’s first volume was a quarto edition of Vergil. His type faces introduced the modern, pseudoclassical style, with level serifs and with emphasis on the contrast of light and heavy lines.
This style influenced designers in France and that of Bodoni in Italy.
Books printed by Baskerville are typically large, with wide margins, made with excellent paper and ink. His masterpiece was a folio Bible, published in 1763.
After his death his wife operated the press until 1777.
Then most of his types were purchased by Beaumarchais and were used in his 70-volume edition of Voltaire.
The matrices, long lost, were rediscovered and in 1953 were presented to Cambridge University Press.
Among Baskerville’s publications in the British Museum are Aesop’s Fables (1761), the Bible (1763), and the works of Horace (1770).
Photo: Printing press driven by the heat rays of the sun.
On 6 August 1882, Monsieur Abel Pifre, a French Engineer, demonstrated the solar engine invented by him at a meeting of the Union Francaise de la Jeunesse held at the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
It consisted of a concave mirror 3.5 metres in diameter, in the focus of which there is placed a cylindrical steam boiler equipped with a safety valve.
The steam generated by the reflected sun-rays actuates a small vertical engine of 2/5 horse power driving a Marioni type printing-press.
Although the sun lacked power and the sky was frequently overcast, the press operated continuously from 1.00 pm to 5.30 pm turning out an average of five hundred copies per hour of a journal which was especially made up for the occasion and appropriately called Soleil-Journal.
Previously Pifre had demonstrated that 50 litres of water could be brought to boil in less than 50 minutes, after which the pressure of the steam increased one atmosphere every eight minutes.
There is little doubt that such a solar engine will be a boon to the population of hot areas which so often suffer from a shortage of fuel.
Samuel Hartlib, (pictured above) who was exiled in Britain and enthusiastic about social and cultural reforms, wrote in 1641 that “the art of printing will so spread knowledge that the common people, knowing their own rights and liberties, will not be governed by way of oppression”.
For both churchmen and governments, it was concerning that print allowed readers, eventually including those from all classes of society, to study religious texts and politically sensitive issues by themselves, instead of thinking mediated by the religious and political authorities.
It took a long long time for print to penetrate Russia and the Orthodox Christian world, a region (including modern Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria) where reading ability was largely restricted to the clergy.
In 1564, a White Russian brought a press to Moscow, and soon after that his workshop was destroyed by a mob.
In the Muslim world, printing, especially in Arabic or Turkish was strongly opposed throughout the early modern period (printing in Hebrew was sometimes permitted).
Indeed, the Muslim countries have been regarded as a barrier to the passage of printing from China to the West.
According to an imperial ambassador to Istanbul in the middle of the sixteenth century, it was a sin for the Turks to print religious books.
In 1515, Sultan Selim I issued a decree under which the practice of printing would be punishable by death.
At the end of the century, Sultan Murad III permitted the sale of non-religious printed books in Arabic characters, yet the majority were imported from Italy.
Jews were banned from German printing guilds; as a result Hebrew printing sprang up in Italy, beginning in 1470 in Rome, then spreading to other towns. Local rulers had the authority to grant or revoke licenses to publish Hebrew books.
It was thought that the introduction of the printing medium ‘would strengthen religion and enhance the power of monarchs.’ The majority of books were of religious nature with the church and crown regulating the content.
The consequences of printing wrong material were extreme. Meyrowitz used the example of William Carter who, in 1584, printed a pro-Catholic pamphlet in Protestant-dominated England.
The consequence of his action was torture and hanging.
The widespread distribution of the Bible ‘had a revolutionary impact, because it decreased the power of the Catholic Church as the prime possessor and interpreter of God’s word.’