Letterpress, print, type

The Message Is The Medium

When I bought my little press a few weeks ago, I posted a bit (!) about it and the box of goodies that came with it. Now that I have the press up and running, I’ve turned my attentions to what is in all those little boxes. Yes, I know it is type, but what sort?

These little ‘pin’ boxes were elegantly labelled in a fine copperplate hand, each containing between three and eight characters in both upper and lower case. I was using a little ink stamp pad to get an idea of the style and quality of the type. Although these are pretty scruffy, they appear to be still quite sharp:

There were also a lot of old matchboxes, some marked and I guess that the other markings had rubbed off along the way.

I went through each box and re-labelled them. Incidentally, there were two matchbox designs; the ‘Pioneer’ one above, but the majority were all these quaint ‘Punch’ brand:

Each box contained a similar number of characters as before, but instead of upper and lowercase there were two sizes of caps:

I don’t know if this is just saving on storage space or whether these were deliberately put together to form a small caps fount. There is a tell-tale angled serif on the apex of the cap A – I’ll send some prints to whoever identifies it first!

One of the boxes was chock full of spacing too.

There are also four wooden type cases, again labelled in a fine hand.

Two cases of caps and two of lowercase. I can’t tell the difference between them yet as they are very small and the labels have been amended and scuffed, so I will need to get some samples set up and print them off.

The ink stamp prints were not great and didn’t help in identifying the fount, but it’s a start!

I suppose I shall just have do some printing then. Ho hum! First off, I dug out one of my larger blackletter founts – I have three – and this one probably the most formal of the three. I don’t know what the fount is called. I have tried to match it against a number of samples, and it is similar to Wedding Text and a bit like Festival Text, but exactly either of them. I have put out a request for help on Briar Press (honestly, those folks are truly letterpress experts – if they don’t know, I think I’m stuck!) and also checked out the Script Font Identification Guide on Bowfin Printworks excellent site, but still left in the dark.

Anyway, I set up a headline and then used the tiny type from the little round boxes I showed you earlier.

It didn’t look in great condition as I was setting it; quite well-worn in places. These shots were taken just as I finished setting them and were thoroughly cleaned prior to printing. I like the quality of the images when te type is grubby!

Well, with the press inked up with Prussian Blue, I got quite productive. I used far less paper in setting up than I did previously, indicating that I had learned something from the last print session!

I was still a little heavy on the bottom right, and I was right about the small type being a bit worn, but I like the contrast between the sharp, fine lines of the blackletter script and the rather tired roman.

I went on to set up another forme almost immediately afterwards and decided to try out a couple of other, as yet, unused founts, namely this rather handsome Rockwell Bold Shadow and Univers Bold condensed italic. I also put in some nifty little border characters across the top, and a solid bar beneath.

Again, I love these close-ups showing many years of grime and stubborn understains!

And there you go, this time in a very dark grey (I must get some more colours!)  These were printed about an hour ago – still have ink on my fingers!

I got a few decent prints too. The lines are crisp and sharp – I am more impressed by this press every time I use it!

I also ran quite a few lightly pressed versions – the idea behind this one is that it is deliberately incomplete to suggest that it is actually ‘still loading.’

Intend to make these available digitally as wallpaper for desktops, as well as package them up as a series in little envelopes and leave them around for people to stumble upon.

The border characters were pretty successful too. Not bad for 4mm blocks…

These prints were done in a much more leisurely fashion, probably due to the confidence built upon previous trials and not worrying too much about the time I take. My approach this time was much more practical – I know that the press works and that it isn’t a mammoth task to get set up, print and clean up again, so I just went for it. Each print run last for about an hour, including setting up and cleaning afterwards, but not the typesetting – that took much longer because I tend to faff about too much and keep changing my mind.

8 thoughts on “The Message Is The Medium

    1. Thankyou John, I think you are right. I have been going through quite a bit of this type again today, sorting out a lot of the pied stuff, and it appears that I may also have Cheltenham Book in 6pt, and also the Italic, but only the lowercase so far (I have quite a bit more to sort) as well as extra figures and punctuation still boxed.

      I did promise to send prints out to whoever identified this first – I am a bit nervous now, given that you are one of the Briar Press gurus! Email me your address christopher@lestaret.com and I’ll honour my obligations!

      Thanks again, John, all the best.


    1. I think you may be right Bruce. I will check some other letters and get back to you. I have also been sorting out loads of pied type recently, and found quite a lot of tiny type. I may just have to set them all up in a block and print – I feel a big competition coming on…

  1. Hi Pippa, but I’m not so sure about Caslon – the strokes are not contrasting enough. I think Bruce may have it – Cheltenham is a little bolder with less sharp serifs. I’ll let you know when I’ve done some prints…

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