Page 4 - September 2014
P. 4


                 by Bob Richardson (9718)

read no further if you are                            As soon as I saw it I remembered a small card
easily offended—but keep                              which was given to me many years ago by a reƟring
going if you want to know                             London printer. Almost 20 years ago Charles &
the solution to an old                                Company of Aldgate adverƟsed a clearance sale
printing conundrum.                                   of their leƩerpress material through the pages
you have been warned..!                               of this magazine and I went along one aŌernoon
                                                      with my old friend John Davies to see what was on
ON THE 27TH OF FEBRUARY the annual JusƟn              offer. We found a treasure trove of vintage types,
Howes Memorial Lecture was given at the St            including many pre-point-size examples in a dusty
Bride FoundaƟon by Paul Shaw. He spoke on the         aƫc. Such was the range of material on offer that
life and work of the American typographer, book       we made two further visits. It was not without its
designer and occasional puppeteer, William Addison    complicaƟons, for old Mr Charles had pre-sold all
Dwiggins. An hour or so before his talk we reƟred     of the typecases to an anƟque dealer and couldn’t
to Room 19, the main book stack at St Bride, to       be persuaded to let us have any of them. The type
look through the library’s collecƟon of Dwiggins      had to be decanted into polythene bags and we
material, which includes many of his books, graphic   did this, in a great hurry, by placing a fire blanket
design work and printed ephemera. In a large box      and a wooden board over each case and quickly
marked ‘WDA-4’, Paul found a neatly-printed (by       inverƟng it to deposit small piles of characters onto
leƩerpress of course) sheet of headed notepaper.      the blanket, before bagging them up. This didn’t
A pencilled annotaƟon on the reverse revealed         always work as planned and we created a a few
that it was originally produced for the American      generous porƟons of ‘pie’ between us. It was quite
publisher Alfred P Knopf, but the words on the front  a chore, but with a large roll of 500 or so small
of the sheet were puzzling. Paul had seen other       freezer bags we were able to roughly sort the type
examples in the USA, but hadn’t deciphered the        into some kind of order. Dissing it into cases took
curious language. A couple of Internet searches had   many months aŌer it arrived in our workshops. John
suggested that the words might be Turkish, or even    managed to get a good range of sizes of ‘Mona Lisa’
Iranian, but the strange phrases were immediately     and I admiƩed to being a liƩle jealous of his prize,
recognisable to me. Printed in dark blue on the       so was touched when, aŌer his death and on his
Knopf leƩerheading is the following text:             instrucƟons, John’s family gave me those faces.

         ½›ãã›Ù«›ƒ—®Ä¦ —›Ý®¦Ä›— ù ó.ƒ —󮦦®ÄÝ       Apart from his leƩerpress operaƟon, Mr Charles’
                        ¥ÊÙ ƒ½¥›— »ÄÊÖ¥               grandfather had also run a stone-litho prinƟng
                                                      business, and stacked around his old Victorian
                                                      desk on the second floor of the substanƟal
                                                      works in Aldgate were many of the original
                                                      German limestone slabs. Some carried elaborate
                                                      leƩerheadings for long-defunct Victorian and
                                                      Edwardian traders, while others were mulƟ-colour
                                                      sets for cigareƩe cards or circular graph paper for
                                                      temperature-recording machines. (The laƩer is now
                                                      displayed on the main table of the Reading Room at
                                                      St Bride). I asked if he might sell one to me but he
                                                      refused. “They’re a part of my family history, and
                                                      I’m taking them all home when the business has
                                                      closed” was his reply. Ironically, when Mr Charles

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