ephemera, Letterpress, print

From Gutenberg to Bull

Some of you may recall a post on this blog about a toy Gutenberg letterpress kit I was given last year – indeed, the images of the instruction book I posted are the most downloaded files on this blog! In that post I mentioned that I was looking out for a John Bull printing kit but not having much luck. On my birthday last week I was given (yes, you guessed it!) a John Bull Printing Outfit!

The box is in great condition, with just a little water damage to the bottom left of the lid. It measures 185 x 124mm (7¼ x 5 inches) – a bit less than A5 and is full of standard and non standard (I think) bits:

It works in the same principle of every other home letterpress kit – lots of tiny rubber squares with reversed letters raised up on the top surface. Simple arrange the letters in the little wooden grooves, press into the inkpad and well, print away!

There were three pieces with the remnants of the last use still inserted. I did a little Googling to see if those three names meant anything and came up with Southwood farm in Cleobury Mortimer, Worcestershire. I find instant information like this both fantastic and just a little terrifying.

The inkpad appears to be original and is heavily impressed through much use.

The letterblocks have perished – they are a bit hard and dessicated and will probably not stand up to much pressure before they break.

Each block measures about 4mm high and the kit comes with it’s own set of nifty tweezers!

There is even a little John Bull stamp too! I’ll have to get a new inkpad next week!

I aligned up some of the unbroken lines for a photograph or two. A couple of days after, I was looking through some images of my friend Wayne’s recent cultural visit to Naples, Herculaneum and Vesuvius. Wayne is  a very talented typographer and is currently learning the art of lettercutting in stone and wood, so as you would imagine, there are lots of images of inscriptions an lettering. As I looked at the images below, I saw a wonderful visual link between my little 1950’s(?) rubber letterblocks and this imposing war memorial in Santa Lucia.

I know, it’s a tenuous link, but I was immediately struck by the simplicity of the uppercase characters and the rhythmic linespacing and justification. I like to think that all things are connected in some small way, and in this case the link may be only very vaguely typographic, but it is a link I made and I’ll stick with it.

Well aren’t I a lucky boy?  I’ve got some great stuff – and some great friends. Heaps of thanks to Michelle and Stuart for this excellent gift – I’m still smiling and messing about with it! And thanks to Wayne for the use of his images. Wayne has started a new blog and is currently uploading content relating to his lettercutting and typographic work – I’ll include a link here as soon as it’s up and running.


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