Page 6 - February 2015
P. 6

                                        by Bob Richardson (9718)

         OLD IS A MYSTICAL METAL,                varnish. The stickful of type was then applied
          TREASURED AND SOUGHT AfTER             to the paper or vellum in the manner of a
          fOR MILLENNIA. Thought to have         rubber stamp, before laying gold leaf on top
magical properties and mediaeval alchemists      and burnishing it. The surplus was removed
pursued the dream of turning base metals into    with a soft rag. It was a slow, labourious
this almost indestructible element. Resistant    process, used only for illumination, rather
to corrosion (apart from aqua regia, a mixture   than substantial blocks of text.
of nitric and hydrochloric acids) gold endures.
                                                 Thomas de la Rue (left) was born on 24th of
Printing with metallic gold ink is a relatively  March, 1793 in Guernsey and at the tender
modern process, perfected in the mid-19th        age of nine he was apprenticed to master
century, yet the earliest known examples         printer Joseph Antoine Chevalier.
date from the second half of the15th century,    His indenture originally gave his age as ten
long before the invention of metallic inks.      (in Thomas’s precociously good handwriting),
The German printer, Erhard Ratdolt devised       but this was corrected to “nine” by his new
a method of printing with gold leaf, and         master, despite the lad’s tenth birthday
Joseph Moxon, in his Mechanick Exercises in      being only three weeks away. At the end of
the Whole Art of Printing describes another      his apprenticeship he established a business
process using varnish. Rather than setting       partnership with grocer Tom Greenslade,
type in a conventional forme, Moxon advises      founding a local newspaper. They quarrelled
that the text should be firmly locked into       bitterly and after just 13 editions the business
a composing stick and ‘inked’ with a thick       closed down.

                                                 At the age of 25, de la Rue moved to London.
                                                 His entry in the London Street Directory
                                                 records him as a “straw hat maker”.
                                                 He experimented with various coloured
                                                 pigments and alternatives to straw, including
                                                 paper, in the manufacture of bonnets.
                                                 In 1828 he discovered that the addition of
                                                 talcum powder to the liquor used in paper
                                                 manufacture gave greater brilliancy to the
                                                 finished product, a property he exploited in
                                                 the manufacture of playing cards.

                                                 By 1830 Thomas was established in the
                                                 stationery business, although he kept several
                                                 irons in the fire and maintained his straw
                                                 hat factory alongside the new venture.
                                                 In partnership with Sam Cornish and Frederick
                                                 Rock he traded as “Cardmakers, Hot Pressers

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