Page 12 - April 2014
P. 12

Bob Richardson (9718)

THE BOOM in high street stores selling goods    “Rickmansworth, in the County of
for £1 is perhaps a sign of our straightened    Herƞordshire, is a town of about 6,000
Ɵmes, but it was ever thus. Although most       inhabitants. Leather is prepared and paper
companies wish to sell their products on the    manufactured there, and of late years it
quality of the goods there have always been     has become a residenƟal suburb of London.
retailers who are proud to call themselves      Rickmansworth is a long word with a great
“cheap”. As a child growing up in the north of  variety of leƩers, and for this reason it has
England I recall regular visits with my mother  been selected for the specimen words in the
to a general store on Felling High Street,      catalogue, so that customers may be able to
where a mop and bucket, scrubbing brush,        judge the relaƟve width of one fount to that
water-pistol or hamster cage could be bought    of another.”
very cheaply indeed from a retailer who
adverƟsed himself as “Cheap John”.              Black was also one of a small number of
                                                founders who railed against the “Ring”, a
At the beginning of the last century there      cartel of large foundries, led by Caslon, which
was another “Cheap John” in the
type-founding trade—John Black—
with a small but profitable foundry
in Holloway, north London. He is
significant for a number of reasons,
including the price of his type and the
size of the faces he cast in hard metal.
We’re used to seeing types from 6pt to
72pt, but Black adverƟsed a fine range
of poster sizes, in 96pt, 120pt and even
144pt in many designs, and all cast in
foundry metal. His display faces were
sold, in some cases, at one-fiŌh of the
cost of ‘the commonest’ wood type,
with a 50% trade-in allowance for worn
type. He proclaimed the superiority of
metal type over wood, because when it
became worn it could easily be re-cast,
while worn wood type was only fit for
the bonfire. His specimen book is also
notable for the repeated use of the
word “Rickmansworth” throughout its
pages, chosen, according to him, for the
following reason:

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