The Index to Matrix 1-21, the Foreword to which appears below, was published in 2003. It has long been out of print, and we have now put it on-line, with the list of contents updated to include Matrix 22-33. The index itself will be updated in stages to include issues subsequent to 21, and will be the key to help unlock the vast wealth of material relating mainly to post-1900 fine printing that Matrix has concerned itself with. We estimated that when Matrix entered its fourth decade in 2011 it contained some ‘7000 pages, 800 articles, and innumerable broadsides, tip-ins and colour plates’. It is this third-dimensionality that gives Matrix, almost certainly the last typographic journal to be printed by letterpress from metal type, its unique flavour.
Foreword to Index to Matrix 1-21
The original concept of Matrix was of a fairly straightforward single-section affair of thirty-two pages, prompted by the desire to see in print two typescripts that had come our way, Paul Morgan’s commentary on the diary of a pressman at the Shakespeare Head Press, and Brocard Sewell’s essay on the wood-engraver Edward Walters. Neither would really make a separate book on its own, and it suddenly occurred to us to put them together, add a few other items, and make a single publication out of them all.
At about the same time we bought our first Monotype keyboard and caster, which meant we could do the whole thing in house, and perhaps repeat the process twice a year. Simon Lawrence has described in Matrix 23 (p. 186) how the name evolved, and carried away by the excitement of ideas for other articles from friends and fellow printers, Matrix 1 grew to seventy-two pages. We put a quarter-page advertisement into the American Fine Print, and the result must have been encouraging as we printed 350 copies. The response after publication quickly absorbed those copies that had not been pre-subscribed. And so 2 began to take shape, and now here [in 2003] we are in the middle of 23, with 24 filling up rapidly.
Steve Corey of the Gleeson Library in San Francisco noted in a review of Matrix 1 that it was not just a house journal of the Whittington Press, and it seemed important to establish this point. Indeed in the early issues we discouraged reviews of our books, and other references to Whittington, until David Chambers pointed out to us that this was really counter-productive. Matrix has always taken an interest in what others are up to, on the principle that it’s often a lot more interesting than what’s going on at Whittington.
The early issues were inevitably much concerned with Albions, founders’ type, wood letter, dampened paper, and the rest of what Will Carter once referred to as “medieval clutter”. There is nothing wrong with medieval clutter, as long as the train of thought leads on elsewhere, even to disciplines other than printing, and reading through the topics covered by David Butcher’s exhaustive index it does seem that Matrix has slowly but surely spread its wings and ventured into areas that are not strictly speaking concerned with printing. David has woven various subject headings into the index, and looking down the list we find abstract expressionism, algebraic notation, architecture and typography, ballet, blacksmiths, Buddhism, canals, Futurism, Alcoholics Anonymous, genealogy and gunpowder. So there is plenty for the non-printer in Matrix, and perhaps this helps to explain why its circulation has stayed so remarkably consistent over nearly a quarter of a century, and why copies are read and referred to rather than languishing on the shelf, as such periodicals are prone to do.
Matrix takes more than its fair share of the Press’s time, as David remarks. Ideas for articles are conceived continually, sometimes by us, sometimes by their authors. Many take time to gestate, ten years is believed to be the record to date. We have learnt to be patient, but never to forget. Then in January we begin to put the issue seriously together, and Peter Sanderson begins the marathon job of keyboarding and casting in about February. The first proofs begin to appear in the early summer, and they are read and corrected and reproofed for the contributors. The paste-up is done, the illustrations are finalised, the text is printed in September or October and the Fine Bindery sets to work to produce copies by the end of the year, if all goes to plan. We have missed a few Christmases, but on the principle that it is the end product that that is remembered, and that delivery dates will in due course be forgotten.
Why do we still do it all by letterpress? The simple answer is that we have always done it that way, and that we enjoy doing it that way and that letterpress is singularly appropriate for a journal that concerns itself with fine printing. It will probably be the last typographic journal to be printed from type by letterpress, so perhaps we should make the most of it while we can.
David has worked long and hard on this index and it will unlock many of the treasures in the series (I have already found myself using the typescript to look up references before it was even in proof). The methodology he has brought to bear on the sometimes wayward ways of the series puts us all in his debt.