New Monotype Borders

Some new type has just arrived, cast by the wonderful Stan Lane of Gloucester Typesetting Services.

I had ordered for some 24pt Monotype Borders No. 198, 321 and 322 so that I can add decently sized borders to my posters. The type came beautifully packaged and I have broken it down and used some of 198 to make up a border that will shortly be printed.

Some of my new border type
Monotype Border 198 in a chase

Last year I was privileged to visit Stan Lane at his unique workshop near Gloucester and have an afternoon with him, amongst his casting machines and printing presses. What a real joy it was. Below are some pictures I took.

Stan at one of his many Monotype Casting Machines
Monotype Matrix, like the one that would have been used to cast my borders.
Stan at the Monotype Casting Keyboard. Look how happy he looks!
A general view of some of Stan’s workshop

I have ‘borrowed’ the words below from Stan’s website as they give a very good description about both casting type and what letterpress printing really is.

Real printing works in three dimensions. It means pressing a letter with ink on it into paper. Most of what we see and read these days, whether it’s a newspaper, a book, a sheet off a photocopier or words on the TV screen, is two-dimensional. It’s black and white but it lies flat on the paper. The shapes of the letters are the same, but what you see lacks the bite, the sense of impression, of type that’s been really printed. Letterpress printing remains the only way to gain the full impact of printing as it is meant to be seen, read and appreciated. Whether it is an edition of the Bible or Shakespeare, an invitation or a calling card, a poem or a piece of promotion, it has to make that impact. If it is to be understood as well as read, appreciated as well as seen, it has to be printed by letter press.

The process starts with lead type, each letter separate. This is produced by the Monotype process, of which I am probably the last commercial typesetter. It consists of a keyboard and a caster. The keyboard produces a perforated tape, which programmes the caster. One piece of type is cast at a time, and ejected into a channel to make ‘justified’, i.e., squared off, lines of individual types. The lines mount up in a long tray called a ‘galley’. When it is full, they are taken off and made up into pages by hand. That is when extra items like headings and page-numbers are added.

That is where the job ends, but for me it never ends. I go back to work I’ve already done, enjoying it when it’s come out well, sometimes wondering if I couldn’t have done it better. So when you, the customer, come back for more, you’ll find me ready to start work again, ready to repeat what’s been well done before or to create a new design for a completely new job.

The Submarine Print for the Submariner Memorial Appeal at the National Memorial Arboretum

The memorial is planned to be located at the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance. The Arboretum is a place which helps people to reflect and to be inspired, and where they can celebrate lives lived and a place to commemorate lives lost in service. The Submariner Memorial will commemorate the sacrifice of all those who have died whilst in the submarine service, and be a place for their families to visit.  

Since 1945, 450 submariners have died while serving. And in the years before, between, and during the two World Wars, some 5,000 men made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But there is nowhere dedicated to honouring them, until now.

Further details can be obtained at:

To raise some money for this appeal, I have printed a limited edition of fifty prints of the delightful and detailed drawing by the artist Rear Admiral John Lang, himself a submariner, showing an ‘Oberon’ and a ‘Swiftsure’ class submarine. To date, forty nine of the fifty prints have been sold, at a gain to the memorial fund of some £1000.

Below is a photograph of no fifty of the edition – still for sale at £25! – and all ready for posting off!

This print was the first job that I have done on my ‘Victoria’ press, only installed at ‘Periscope’ a month ago. The subject matter is very fitting for the name of my private press!

The Victoria Press is Installed!

So on Wednesday 8th July a large ten ton lorry forced its way up my long drive from the road, navigating some overhanging trees on the way. And then disgorged a pallet with the Victoria parallel motion press onto the tarmac, all well packed and shrink wrapped by Chris Wakeling, the previous owner in Consett.

Up comes the transporter lorry

My two helpers (brothers) infront of the press.

I had built a platform out side of the workshop door at workshop floor level. The plan was to lift the press with a fork lift truck and place the press onto this platform on steel rollers, and then push the press into position on these rollers.

The press is slung and is about to be lowered onto the platform.

Once we had managed the slinging, the lift all went well and soon we were rolling the press in through the doorway.

In through the door she comes.

And then round the corner and into the final position. What a marvellous piece of engineering. Now I have to learn how to use the press and get it printing. With its parallel motion, packing the platen should be a lot easier than on my Arab.

Then after fixing the motor to the concrete floor with some expansion bolts, and connecting up the drive pulls with a new shorter belt; a flick of a switch and the press was up and running. A long, but rewarding day, only possible with the kind help of good friends. Now to ink the press up and learn how to print with it!!

The two presses are now in ‘line abreast’.

Dependeth the might of the chain

Another verse from ‘The Laws of the Navy’ by Captain Ronald Hopwood, first published in the Army & Navy Gazette on 23rd July 1898. ‘Who knows when thou mayest be tested’ are rather judicious words that unfortunately apply to us all – in every walk of life. These cards are oversized one third A4 and have been printed on a heavy stiff white card with the an image of Britannia at the head, with some on a 100% cotton card with an image of a sailing ship at the head. Please get in touch if you would like me to send you a card. The words could well be good advice for grandchildren!

Victoria Parallel Platen Press

In two weeks time I will be installing a Victoria Parallel Platen Press in my workshop here in Inverness. The press, made in Germany in 1932, is a beautiful piece of machinery with a parallel motion that helps provide the same impression all over a ‘pull’. The press also has an excellent inking system, and is electrically driven. I feel extremely fortunate to have found such a sort-after press, that has been so well cared for- and loved – in its current location near Durham.

I have had to do a considerable re-arrangement of my workshop, but by getting rid of a few items there is now plenty of space to place the Victoria in line with my Arab Press. So the space is now waiting in excitement for the arrival of the Victoria. I will be sure to add plenty of pictures of the installation of this ton of machinery and its first commissioning in my ‘Periscope Press’. All so exciting…….! Below is a picture of a Victoria Platen that is similar to the one coming my way.

A victoria Platen

The Words of Brutus

‘There is a tide in the affaires of men’ are well known words, but maybe not everyone will immediately know that they were spoken by Brutus in Act 4 of Julius Caesar. To me they state that when in life, a chance or opportunity shows itself, one must grab it. It is also said that at the approach of death, it is the things that one did not do, rather than those that one did, that come to the surface. So I have printed the words of Brutus, set in 24pt Verona, on 100% cotton paper. The type was cast by Stephenson Blake, as were the decorations, and I was lucky to obtain this type not long before the famous type founders in Sheffield closed. I remember clearing shelf of dusty unopened packets of type; in the knowledge that they would never be cast again.

The print is on 100% cotton paper, size 9.5″ x 6.5″, mounted on a green board size A4.

New Type from the USA

The postman has just arrived with a heavy parcel from America, containing some more ‘Cloister Initials’ that have recently been cast by Typefoundry P22. The matrix must have been from the sale of America Type Founders, back in the 1990s.

Although the type is not ‘founders’ type and not as hard as the original from ATF would have been, it will print as well, provided it is carefully handled and not too much pressure is applied to the forme. I look forward to using this brand new type, that as the photos show, has been cast so well.

Type being opened

The Laws of the Navy

Captain Ronald Hopwood, Royal Navy published his verse ‘The Laws of the Navy’ in the Army & Navy Gazette in 1898. Based on the rhythm and style of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Laws of the Jungle’, his poem has become a classic within both the Royal Navy and the US Navy. It was also published after WW1, in a stunning edition with drawings by Lieutenant Rowland Laingmaid. Although it was primarily aimed at aspiring naval officers, it contains a wealth of great wisdom that any profession or team would be wise take onboard. Particular lines that appeal to me are:

‘One the strength of one link in the cable – dependeth the might of the chain.

They prosper who burnt in the morning – the letters they wrote overnight

So this lock-down period has given me some time to produce a larger print of the first two verses, that are equally applicable to any organisation or company of people, that has a head and satellites. The prints are done on soft white 300gsm mould made ‘Somerset’ paper, which takes the letterpress impression so beautifully. Although, they took some time to set and print the black and red in register, the result is very pleasing. I have twenty five copies, should anyone want one to frame up. (size 8.25″ square so fit well into a 10″ square frame)

Set in 24pt Verona Roman and Italic, with heading and footers in Perpetua Italic

Submarine Drawing by John Lang

Many years ago, when I was running Piccolo Press, I was asked by John Lang, a fellow submariner and most accomplished artist, to produce some cards from a drawing he had done. I made a block of his delightful pen and ink sketch of a ‘P’ or ‘O’ class diesel electric submarine, with our then newest nuclear submarine HMS SWIFTSURE . For good measure he added a manned periscope into the drawing. Whilst rummaging in my print-shop, I came across this block and decided to see how it printed. As I hope you can see, it has come out well; dark and menacing – like submarines should be! – and a remarkable vignette of submarining life. Should any submariner want a print, I am sure John would not mind if you got in touch with me.

John Lang’s drawing, reproduced with a letterpress block and printed on a press made in 1900!

Two New Printing Blocks

I have been very wary of buying printing items on eBay, where the prices are often very inflated and one takes a risk. However, in the last week I have purchased two items that are really special. The large decorated initial B is a very old piece of type, cast by Caslon and is 11ems square. As you can see from the image below, it prints beautifully, even if it is very slightly damaged. With such a deep image, it will print and emboss at the same time, provided the correct soft paper is chosen.

The other block is an old ‘Manicule’ or Printer’s Fist. These original blocks are hard to come by. The word ‘manicule’ derives from the Latin manicula (little hand) and these pointing hands were particularly used on posters and advertisements. The detail on this block is superb.

Two old blocks, recently obtained through eBay.
The first pull of the new B
The first pull of the new Printer’s Fist or Manicule.