APHA National Conference "Saving the History of Printing"
New York City, October 10th - 12th
Friday: Bowne & Co., Stationers
by Ray Nichols & Jill Cypher
On Friday several optional tours had been set up. Jill Cypher went to the Center for the Book to see the exhibition of Whittington Press. Ray Nichols went to Bowne Printing at the South Street Seaport.
To start our day, we arrived in the city at Penn Station, and caught a cab to the Grolier Club. We had printed 80 copies of a broadside celebrating Lead Graffiti and the Chesapeake Chapter of APHA and wanted to drop them off so we wouldn't have to carry them and our suitcase around the city.
From the Grolier Club it is a nice ride on the #6 subway to the end of the line at the Brooklyn Bridge. A couple hundred yards and this was the view.
Bowne & Company Stationers, 211 Water Street, has been in existence since the shop's founder, Robert Bowne (1744-1818), set up his firm in 1775.
Today Brown & Company is a multinational printer of financials, but our letterpress tour resided behind these doors.
Robert Warner, Bowne & Co.'s master printer, and Fela Cortés, the press's retail manager, provided a warm welcome to our group, closing the shop to the public for our demonstration.
The store offered a nice assortment of letterpress printed items, including cards, notcards, journals and the like. It is packed as you can see above. Every inch of wall space is covered with shelves stacked with boxes and we'll come back to these in a moment.
Above, Robert Warner shows a sample of what we are going to be printing on the quite nice tabletop Albion iron handpress in the foreground.
About a dozen APHA members joined in the Bowne tour. The print shop was so rammed with equipment we couldn't walk around the shop which was surely a disappointment to most of us. From discussions as we were standing around waiting for the demonstration to start, several of the participants were printers and working with the Albion was going to be a nice treat.
This image above shows the tympan and frisket with the paper set into the registration pins.
Robert had purchased a vintage accounting book and had cut out all of the blank ledger sheets. This was going to be the base on which we would work. The previous night he had printed a split fountain run on the sheets.
Above you can see Robert inking the copperplate for the type.
A gental tug to lower the platen and the ink was on the paper.
The decorative cap on the Albion listed its serial number as 1836 and made in 1844.
After everyone printed a sample for their collection a question was asked about the numbered boxes that filled many of the shelves. As it turned out this was part of a collection that had been obtained by Bowne & Co. and each box held a font from the collection.
The type specimens were from the Frederic Nelson Phillips Collection of Antique, Exotic, and Ancient Typefaces. The boxes appeared to be handmade and were wonderfully connected to APHA's 2008 theme of "Saving the History of Printing." Below are a few shots from various boxes.
it is worth noting that there is little if any online references to this collection and it could be a nice set of images of the several hundred, very clean samples, if you even just photographed the type in the boxes. It might provide an interesting opportunity to electroplate some of the rare specimens to keep them alive and in use.
The metal type samples we looked at were in pristine condition and represented some wonderful ornate type. At least several were from the typefoundry of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan that operated in Philadelphia during the late 1800s.
Below are two photos of a typeface named Pencraft from MS&J. Ray Nichols had just obtained a sample of this typeface with 36 point mortised initials and 18 point caps and lowercase. It was great seeing this box of the same so nicely preserved.
It would be great to get a copy of the booklet shown above and to photograph a lot more of the boxes of type. I like seeing the image of the type as metal versus printed.
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