Matrix 34

Matrix 34 hits the press next week and will encompass a wide variety of topics, united by its primary interest in printing by letterpress, from metal type. This preoccupation can take many forms, and includes this year:

Printing at a small west-country newspaper using a Monotype caster and a Wharfedale cylinder press; the extraordinary archive of the Officina Bodoni; an insider account of the Westerham Press, the most technically innovative, and amongst the most typographically aware, printers of its time; setting poetry on a Ludlow caster; the inter-reaction of pottery and letter-cutting; selling and installing Wharfedale presses in the 60s and 70s; learning to cut a punch from one of its few remaining practitioners; an untypically warm correspondence with Edward Bawden; a little-known Polish private press in pre-war Florence, using Nicolas Cochin types; working for Gordon Russell; Matisse and the books he created in Paris with Tériade; Stinehour Press and Meriden Gravure; and much else besides, all cast from the moulds of Monotype casters in Caslon, Poliphilus, Goudy Modern, Scotch Roman, Bell and Cochin types, and printed with the crisp impression of an SBB Heidelberg cylinder press: a rare combination of technical and literary excellence – possibly even unique in our careless, digital age.


Borders used by the Curwen Press

Curwen Press

The following extract is from Matrix 5:

(click image to open slideshow)

The Curwen Press finally passed onto the hands of the receiver in January 1984, and its largely irreplaceable stock of types was rescued from the melting pot in the nick of time by Ian Mortimer, with the help of Michael Heseltine of Sothebys.

In order to do this they had to buy the entire Curwen Press composing room outright. As Ian Mortimer wrote in the elegantly produced eight-page A Short Notice from I.M. Imprimit about the Fate of the Types from the Curwen Press Following its Closure, and the Purchase of the Entire Composing Room Stock, May 1984 (100 copies of which were printed for the American Typecasting Fellowship’s conference in June 1984), ‘The task of moving the type was daunting. The enormity of the operation will be appreciated when it is made clear that the “composing room” consisted in fact of three large rooms together with an office and a store, with some twelve hundred cases of type contained in twenty-two tallboys, twelve single case-racks, countless galleys of stored and standing type and what amounted to about six tons of type in pages, carefully wrapped and labelled on shelves. There were in addition three case-racks devoted to fleurons & borders: one of foundry borders and two of monotype. In all, as the subsequent moving & clearing showed, there were about thirty-five tons of type.’

Thanks to Ian Mortimer’s foresight and perseverance, some of the Curwen types have survived, and a selection of them, and some borders, are shown in the following pages.


Matrix 5: The Curwen Press Collection in Cambridge University Library, by John Dreyfus

Edward Bawden

The Curwen Press can be regarded as the high point of mid-twentieth century creative, commercial letterpress, and no one was better qualified to describe it than John Dreyfus – successor to Stanley Morison as typographic advisor to the Monotype Corporation, Assistant Printer to Cambridge University Press, a director of the Curwen Press from 1970 to 1982, and­ unofficial advisor to Matrix on all matters typographic from its second issue in 1982 until his death in 2002. The wealth of illustration that accompanied his article came from the unique Curwen archive at Cambridge University Library. David McKitterick’s fine tribute to John appeared in Matrix 23.         John Randle


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The Wrington Wharfdale by Bernard Seward

Wrington Wharfdale

Wrington wood typeIn about 1988 I went down to visit Organs with Bernard Seward, somewhere on the outskirts of Bristol. My recollection is of a large rather unprepossessing looking shed, inside which was a Printers’ Aladdin’s Cave. Most of the floor space was take up with the largest Wharfedale I had ever seen, an Extra-Quad Royal 2 colour used for printing the posters in which the firm specialised. Around it were sloping shelves containing a profusion of wood type, the like of which I had also never seen before, in all sizes, weights, and compressions imaginable.

John Organ told us on a second visit that this collection was destined for a ‘graphic designer in London called Alan Kitching’ whose story is told in Matrix 26, ‘Liberated by Letterpress’, ending with now much quoted phrase: ‘Though locked tight in metal, it’s amazing how liberating letterpress can be’.       John Randle


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Matrix 33

Matrix 33

Matrix 33 will contain some 160 pages, including 8 pages of colour plates; type specimens printed in France, Italy, America and the UK; and many other linocut, and line and colour illustrations. The contents will include:

‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’: Protest Images from the Nineteen Sixties by Dennis Gould; Herbert Jefferies, or The Bronze Buckaroo by Barbara Henry; Bradley Hutchinson – a Letterpress Fusion by Catherine Docter; Flaps & Hinges by Andrew Anderson; Hornby and the Daniels, their Correspondence by William S. Peterson; Reynolds Stone by Humphrey Stone; Lac Des Pleurs by Gaylord Schanilec; It’s Not Nostalgia, the Skill and Vision of Lowell Bodger by Paul Shaw; An Eighteenth-Century Factory for Bibles by Martyn Ould; The Rampant Lions Press at the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1982 by Sebastian Carter; Reprinting Printing Types: a Wander through the Design of Stephenson Blake’s Type Specimens by David Marshall and Elizabeth Ellis; Wood Type Revival by Tom Mayo; Tribulations of a Publishing Bookseller by George Ramsden; Matrix and Minnesota by John Randle; Donatus Pro Puerulis, the Lost Subiaco Edition and a Replica Imagined by Richard Årlin; Watermarks, and the Flow of Time by Enrico Tallone; From the Guild of St Joseph to Ditchling Museum by Jenny KilBride; Émigrés by Anna Nyburg; First Folio by Louisa Hare; La Fin du Monde by Celine Biewesch; Bristol to Mainz, with Bicycle and Adana by Nick Hand; A Bookseller’s Diary by Sophie Schneideman; Book Reviews by Paul W. Nash, John Randle and Patrick Randle.

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