The Monotype Specimen Book of Typefaces: a Complete Catalog of Matrices made for use with the Monotype Composing Machine, and with Type and Rule Caster (published by Lanston Monotype Machine Company, Philadelphia, 1922)
Introduced by Justin Knopp of Typoretum
My first practical introduction to letterpress printing came whilst studying BA (hons) Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design (1991-1994). After spending two days in the college’s Composing Room – a 1950s time capsule deep down in the bowels of the building – I quickly became fascinated by the creative potential of the process and by the ancient skills and ingenious machines employed to make it all happen.
A few years prior to this my late Uncle, Ernest Mansfield, saved for me a Monotype typeface sample book from Royle’s, where he was a Compositor and witnessed the sudden shift from letterpress to newer technology. For weeks piles of typecases, composing room equipment and wooden type burned behind the factory – it is from one of these bonfires that he rescued my specimen book.
Further back than this, the primary school that I attended in Tiptree, Essex, stood in the shadow of the Anchor Press; a factory engaged in book printing for the Hutchinson Printing Trust and for many years the largest book printer in the country. A photograph showing the Composing Room of the Anchor Press, in 1933, can be seen below.
Since then my involvement with letterpress printing has deepened and I have acquired a substantial collection of lead and wooden types, printing machines and other paraphernalia – much of which I have rescued and restored to working order.
I have a 1888 Double Crown Wharfedale cylinder press running that I acquired and had it moved from Wales and restored it at my workshop in Coggeshall, Essex. I have also completed an extensive restoration of an 1857 Columbian Press, for which I had many parts repaired, the most challenging was to have one of the main castings re-made as the press had been badly damaged during its’ former life within the print room of an art school.
After having spent many years designing and printing letterpress work for friends, family and fellow printmakers, I decided to introduce my designs to a wider audience and, together with my wife Cecilia, started Typoretum. Today it is a busy, family run, contemporary letterpress design & printing studio offering a wide variety of services. We run short courses and internship opportunities to ensure that the craft is kept alive and continues to be taught to a new generation of letterpress printers, designers and enthusiasts.