6 Feb 2012


Since last posting a busy year has past. Research has continued to develop the book into it's current form and printing has begun. Over a number of posts I'll try to provide an overview of progress to date.

Following on from and being motivated by Bob Richardson's article I acquired a Stephenson Blake 'Point Line Type and Printing Material' catalogue from 1921 (which coincidentally was found in one of James Joyce's former houses). Included in this catalogue was De Vinne and several grotesque faces, giving further weight to Richardson's notion that Stephenson Blake did indeed fit out the printing Shop. I then read Roy Millington's 'Stephenson Blake: The Last of the Old English Typefounders'. Further evidence to Stephenson Blake being the suppliers was that according to Millington, Westminster Old Style, The White Star's 'house' face, was acquired from ATF (American Type Founders) in 1907 by the company.

I approached the National Print Museum here in Dublin and gained access to their archives on a number of occasions. This resource can't be be overlooked to a letterpress researcher as it is undoubtedly the largest collection of printing equipment in the country. Being a personal fan of the Grotesque faces utilised by the printer's on board Titanic, I was delighted to find 6 cases of grot faces, the highlight of which was Grot no.8 (1920), cast by Stephenson Blake of Sheffield. My intention here was to find two typefaces used by the printers which I in turn could use in my book. Unsuccessful in this quest I decided to use three faces in the end, 48pt Grot no. 8, 18pt Grotesque Light and 14pt Garamond (newly cast by Phil Able and Nick Gill at Hand & Eye, London).

The book also borrows from a Titanic Advertisement for the return leg from New York. I was struck by an 1870's font designed originally by William Hamilton Page, which has been digitally redrawn by Dan X Solo and is known as Minnesota. My idea was to take this font and illustrate it to give a subtle nautical theme. Several drafts later and I was experimenting with Philip at The Laser Company cutting the face into wood. The results were great but the depth of the line could only be .4mm thick before the piece caught fire. That meant that the face would be too large for my intentions, but perfect for poster work etc.

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