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Archived posts: Print

De Worde type sampler

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If you’re anything like us, when you first start working with a new typeface, it’s hard not to feel like a child with much longed-for new toy.

When you first download it, you’re full of awe and excitement. You give the typeface a speedy once-over. Get a feel for the overall vibe. It’s a quick and heady hit of joy.

But the real pleasure comes from when you properly dig down into the typeface to discover its true nature, its capabilities and aptitudes.

And as you start working with it more and more, you uncover its real strengths. Its essence.

So when the rather wonderful type designer Jeremy Tankard approached us to design a type sampler for his new typeface De Worde, we were properly excited.

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De Worde has been commissioned by the Wynkyn de Worde Society to mark its 60th birthday. The Society was set up in 1957 by a group of publishers, typographers and designers ‘dedicated to promoting excellence in all aspects of print and the graphic arts’. The Society meets several times a year to drink, chat, eat, and to hear talks from leading designers, printers, publishers and associated folk.

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In 1500 Wynkyn de Worde, often known as the ‘Father of Fleet Street’, was the first printer to set up his shop on Fleet Street, which for centuries was perhaps the world’s most famous centre of printing.

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In 1528, de Worde was the first printer in Britain to use an italic type, and Jeremy used this as his starting point for his new typeface:

“When looking for inspiration for the De Worde typeface, it seemed logical to start with the italic he used and introduced to English printing. Examination shows a type full of chaotic rhythm – it bounces along the line quite freely and is not as regimented as we would expect today. This, combined with several interesting details seen in the lettershapes, formed the basis of what would become the De Worde typeface.”

(Read the full story of De Worde’s design in Jeremy’s excellent newsletter, Footnote 26.)

De Worde comes in seven weights, from a refined ExtraLight to a characterful (if you’ll pardon the typographic pun) Heavy.

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Playing around with the typeface was an absolute joy, particularly discovering its extended character set which includes small capitals, superiors, number sets and fractions. There’s a real depth of study and understanding in the design of the letters, but that doesn’t weight it down – it has a joyous vivacity to it.

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Our job was simply to reveal as much of the typeface’s brilliance as possible – to give just a hint at what it might be capable of.

For the format of the sampler, we worked to the dimensions of James Moran’s wonderful history of de Worde, Wynkyn de Worde – Father of Fleet Street, so that they could sit comfortably next to each other on a shelf.

We then wrote copy that related to print and publishing, or simply showed off the very best features of the typeface. And inspired by an old joke about newspapers, we decided it should be black, white and red all over. Well… Pantones 426 and 1797 to be accurate (but that’s a little less catchy).

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The sample booklet was printed and bound by the good folks at Typecast Colour, on Shiro Echo White from Fenner Paper. The cover, on Remake Smoke (also from Fenner) was foil-blocked by the wonderful team at Benwells.

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The spines were three-hole sewn, just to emphasise the sense of craft involved in the typeface’s creation.

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Head over to Jeremy’s site and pick up a copy of the De Worde typeface for yourself.

Interrobang: an international showcase of letterpress print

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The lovely people at St Jude’s Prints have just sent us the latest edition of their Random Spectacular journal, Interrobang, and it’s a corker.

It’s been published in collaboration with Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, which is our new favourite place in the whole world.

The Sussex village of Ditchling was the home of letter-cutter Eric Gill (he’s the chap who designed Gill Sans) and calligrapher Edward Johnston (responsible for the famous Johnston typeface used by London Underground). The museum has collected together works from them, and from the artists and craftspeople who gathered around them.

We took a wander down that way a month or so ago. It made for a fantastic day out, starting with a stroll along the South Downs.

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Here’s a sign post set, of course, in Gill Sans.

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And an old National Trust sign, set in Albertus.

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On the way from the Downs to the museum, you pass the home where Edward Johnston used to work and live. (We believe the security light is a more recent addition.)

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The museum’s identity was designed by Phil Baines. And boy it looks great on a sunny spring day. Loving that arrow.

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The current main exhibition at the museum is a history of the development of the Johnston typeface, and that alone makes it worth a visit. Just look at this lower case qu ligature. And the alternate versions of the g!

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And check out this lovely set of Ws:

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If you do one thing this year, go to Ditchling. Twice.

Anyway, we digress.

As part of their brilliant Village of Type events which run throughout May, the museum has put together Interrobang – an international showcase of letterpress print. The exhibition is an open submission, with pieces selected by a panel of typographers and designers.

The journal, designed by Kenneth Gray, and put together by St Jude’s in tandem with the show, features a selection of fantastic articles about the current state of letterpress printing, as well as all the work from the show.

It opens with Phil Baines writing about Hilary Pepler, who set up the local St Dominic’s Press in 1919.

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Then there’s an insightful article by David Marshall and Elizabeth Ellis of The Counter Press about the state of letterpress. They rightly point out that letterpress printing is having a moment, with myriad new small presses joining the old hands who’ve been doing it for years. But they worry about whether letterpress printing is being valued purely for its old-world values: ‘it seems that more often than not, people struggle to leave the nostalgia and vintage charm of the aesthetic in the past.’ They warn of the danger of ‘pastiche and unimaginative reproduction’.

Coming from anyone else, this might sound like they’re just stirring the pot. But they’re one of the most exciting design teams working with letterpress at the moment. They specialise in what they call ‘traditional techniques with modern design thinking’. Here’s the cover of their recent publication Extra Condensed.

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It is beautiful. And we do care.

This theme continues in Patrick Baglee’s wonderful interview with Alan Kitching: ‘He is a designer that is surrounded by and works with letterpress type and letterpress technology. But it is the ideas and deeper meaning that step forward… This sense of expressiveness, of freedom and joy is still what marks Kitching’s work out from much of what passes for letterpress – where it is the means of production that people believe we ought to care about – rather than the final idea as evidence of artistry, craft and simple, clear thinking.’

Here’s Kitching’s recent print for Monotype commemorating Paul Rand:

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Later on in the journal, there’s an article about Adams of Rye, the printshop where Anthony Burrill creates his posters, including this recent one for the museum:

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Another piece looks at the collaboration between Tilley Printing and poet Nick Alexander, creating posters which are flyposted in the local Tinsmith’s Alley in Ledbury, Herefordshire.

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The bulk of the journal though is a showcase of the prints from the show. Here are just a few of those:

From Nicole Arnett Phillips in Brisbane, an analogue bitmap Q: ‘My intention with this series is to explore the space between analogue and digital type design and lettering. Each print translates form between analogue and digital instances. The letterforms start as pencil outlines. I then use physical type – either the face or the feet – (face being right way up type side of the sort, and feet being upside down backside of the physical piece of type) to typeset an analogue bitmap inside the pencil outlines.’

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From BunkerType in Barcelona, a print (#6) from their ongoing project, The New Call, based on the work of Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman:

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Artist Ruth Kirkby shows one of ‘a series of prints to represent the Western-imposed state borders and the effects they have had on the Middle East. The text in the prints is taken from recent Al Jazeera articles about the areas affected by the enforced borders.’

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From New North Press in London, comes a print from their ‘A23D’ 3D-printed letterpress font, designed by A2-Type, fusing old and new technologies.

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One Strong Arm in Dublin submitted a print featuring a quote from Rudolf Koch, but we couldn’t find a picture of it, so here’s one of their other pieces, with a quote from Roddy Doyle.

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Tom Pigeon, the studio of Pete and Kirsty Thomas, show one of their ‘Cinematype’ prints. ‘Cinematype is an original sans-serif, geometric typeface designed by us and inspired by the typography of early 20th Century film. We’ve worked with British printmaker Thomas Mayo to create these exclusive Cinematype letterpress numbers prints.’

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The next print is from The Print Project in Shipley. We’re rather in love with their fantastic posters for the gig night Golden Cabinet, printed using metal type and overprinted laser cut abstract shapes:

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We’re also quite taken by this print from The Wireless Press in Brighton. It’s based on Parisian graffiti from the 1968 uprising (the text translates as ‘Stop clapping – the show is everywhere’).

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All in all, the journal is a wonderful record of a brilliant show, giving a really thorough sense of what is being produced by the best designers and artists working with letterpress print today.

The exhibition is on until 30 May. In the meantime, you can (and should) buy the Interrobang journal from St Jude’s.

Alan Kitching: A life in Letterpress

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The good people at Laurence King recently sent over a copy of their fantastic new monograph, Alan Kitching—A Life in Letterpress. It’s quite brilliant.

You will have seen Alan’s work before, even if you’re not a graphic designer. He’s designed book covers, stamps, magazine covers, protest signs, theatre posters, wine labels and more. All this is done using the traditional letterpress tools – movable metal type, large woodblock letters, ink, paper and a press. His work is immediately recognisable: bold, witty, elegant, colourful and thoughtful, often with a painterly use of ink.

Here are a few of his wonderful Broadsides, the large format typographic prints he has created throughout his career. This is number 1, from 1988, designed to be cut up into individual items of stationery (letterhead, compliments slip, label etc.).

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This one is number 5, from 1992. A typographic map, it represents the streets, businesses, pubs and history of Clerkenwell. It’s a beautiful and beautifully considered piece of work.

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‘Printing in London: 1476-1995’ (below) was commissioned by Heidelberg for their magazine High Quality, and was reprinted in a folder as Broadside number 8. A visual history of printing in London, it features printers, publishers, art schools and type foundries.

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In 2003 Alan produced a dual-purpose petition and poster for The Guardian, ‘Why Iraq? Why Now?’. Published in the newspaper, it was designed to be cut out and pasted onto banners by people who met in London for the anti-war rally on 15 February of that year. (On the day, David Gentleman’s NO poster for the Stop the War Coalition was more visible – though that may partly have been because it was so readily available at the event.)

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‘Taxi!’ (below) was commissioned for the London Poster Project, part of the 2009 London Design Festival:

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The new book details the entirety of Alan’s career so far, from his beginnings as an apprentice compositor at 15, through his work with Anthony Froshaug, Derek Birdsall and others, to his time running the Typography Workshop in Kennington.

It’s especially wonderful to discover Alan’s early, less familiar work, particularly that created while working with Froshaug at Watford College of Technology.

Here are a couple of great experimental prints from the late 1960s using just metal furniture (normally used for spacing out type).

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Here are a few spreads from the book:

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Designed by Simon Esterson and Jon Kielty, and written by John L. Walters, three editions of the book are available. The book edition (£40) won’t be available until March 2017, but in the meantime, the Special Edition (£75) is available, and more than worth the cost. It features a three-piece binding with greyboard covers.

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Rather wonderfully, that’s the same style of binding as was used for the book Celia Sings, which celebrated the life of Alan’s late wife, Celia Stothard (and which was designed by the same team):

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There’s also a boxed Collector’s Edition (£200), with the same binding, which includes a hand printed letterpress signed print, numbered and wrapped round the book to form a jacket. That’s only available in a limited edition of 200.

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You can actually get your hands on a copy of the book edition before March. In tandem with the publication of the book, a major retrospective of Alan’s work is touring around the UK, and a few copies of the book will be on sale at each show. We caught the exhibition at the recent Pick Me Up illustration show at Somerset House, and it was an absolute treat to see so much incredible work. Alan was even on hand to run printing workshops and discuss his work (that’s him in the red jumper below, and peering through the doorway).

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From 3 June to 20 August the retrospective will be on show at The Lettering Arts Centre in Suffolk. After that it moves to The Lighthouse in Glasgow, from 1 November through to February 2017. More dates are promised. We can’t recommend it enough, so if you get the chance do make the trip.

This short film, created to publicise the book, shows Alan at work, discussing various moments during his career:

Fantastic stuff.

Recreating The Wipers Times

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On Saturday 12 February 1916, the first edition of a newspaper, The Wipers Times, was published.

Twelve pages long, it featured a mix of editorial, articles, advertisements, poetry, letters to the editor, a competition, and even an agony column. Nothing too unusual there.

But it was utterly remarkable because it was written, printed, distributed and read by soldiers serving in the trenches of the Western Front of the First World War. And it was deeply satirical, joyously lampooning the top brass, the enemy and the war itself in equal measure.

At a recent Wynkyn de Worde Society event, cartoonist and author Nick Newman related the story of this fantastic publication. Newman really knows his stuff, having co-written (with Ian Hislop) a BBC drama about the newspaper, The Wipers Times, in 2013 (watch the trailer here, and you can still catch the whole film on Netflix).

We’ve been honorary designers for the society this year, so to mark the talk, we decided to create a new edition of the newspaper (shown top), featuring a collection of the best bits from across its twenty-three editions.

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The Wipers Times came about after two soldiers, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson, came across an abandoned and slightly damaged printing press in the heavily-shelled city of Ypres. You can imagine the glint in their eyes as they decided that they might just be able to get the press working, and possibly even lay their hands on enough type, paper and ink to produce a newspaper.

Both men served in the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, which formed part of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.). So they set themselves up as the printers and publishers ‘Sherwood, Forester & Co. Ltd., B.E.F.’.

Of course, they needed a title for their paper. The British soldiers’ common mispronunciation of Ypres served as the perfect name – The Wipers Times was born.

As the battalion, and the press, were moved around during the war, the newspaper took on a series of new names – after being The Wipers Times it became The “New Church” Times, then The Kemmel Times, The Somme-Times, The B.E.F. Times, and finally, at the end of the war, The Better Times. Just above you can see the front cover of The B.E.F. Times from February 1918 – published two long years after the first edition.

Here are a couple more spreads from the same edition:

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(You can see the full set of scans of this edition over at our Wipers Times Flickr album.)

It’s incredible to think that the newspaper was produced throughout the war, often under fire. Roberts and Pearson fought in both battles of the Somme, and were both decorated for gallantry.

Designed to entertain the troops, the newspaper took a deeply satirical approach to news. Here’s a piece by ‘Belary Helloc’, gleefully satirising the writer Hilaire Belloc, whose writing in pro-war magazine Land and Water would often feature inflated estimates of enemy casualties:

“In this article I wish to show plainly that under existing conditions, everything points to a speedy disintegration of the enemy. We will take first of all the effect of war on the male population of Germany. Firstly, let us take as our figures 12,000,000 as the total fighting population of Germany. Of these 8,000,000 are killed or being killed hence we have 4,000,000 remaining. Of these 1,000,000 are non-combatants, being in the Navy. Of the 3,000,000 remaining, we can write off 2,500,000 as temperamentally unsuitable for fighting owing to obesity and other ailments engendered by a gross mode of living. This leaves us 500,000 as the full strength. Of these 497,250 are known to be suffering from incurable diseases, this leaves us 2,750. Of these 2,150 are on the Eastern Front, and of the remaining 600, 584 are Generals and Staff. Thus we find that there are 16 men on the Western Front. This number I maintain is not enough to give them even a fair chance of resisting four more big pushes, and hence the collapse of the Western Campaign. I will tell you next week about the others, and how to settle them.”

For the new edition of the newspaper, with advice from Nick Newman, we pulled together a selection of different articles, adverts, columns and poetry that represented the overall feel of the publication.

From a printing point of view, we wanted to create something that was as true as possible to the original. Fantastically, Matt McKenzie, a member of the Wynkyn de Worde Society who runs his own letterpress studio, Paekakariki Press, offered to typeset and print the new edition on his Heidelberg KS Cylinder press.

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(We should point out that the newspaper was probably originally printed on a Liberty or Arab press. There’s a lovely article in Printing History News that relates Tim Honnor’s provision of an Arab press for The Wipers Times film.)

We decided to do as much as we could within the time available with movable type, and to use plates made from scans of the originals for the rest.

We sent Matt a template grid of the newspaper to work to, with a page size of 10″ high x 7.5″ wide (though we actually set the measurements in mm, because, well, imperial measurements are confusing right?).

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Matt has a Monotype Composition Caster which he used to create a lot of the movable type for the newspaper.

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Historically, using the Monotype System, you would type out text on a Monotype Keyboard, which looked a bit like a massive typewriter. The keyboard would produce a roll of perforated paper tape, which could then be fed into a separate machine, the Monotype Caster, which would cast (at considerable speed) brand new individual metal letters, set line by line. Matt’s caster though is connected to a computer interface, which means he can type the text onto his laptop, and it’s produced moments later by the caster. It’s about as close to magic as you can get. Here’s a short clip we shot of the caster at work – view it full screen and you can see each individual letter being created:

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Once the type was cast, Matt (with just a little assistance from Mike from the printers Benwells, and Alistair from We Made This) then put together the spreads, combining the new type with the scanned plates. Here are Mike and Matt at work:

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Gradually, the pages came together, ready for proofing.

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The newspaper was then printed onto a recycled stock, before being bound and sewn by Benwells.

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The Wipers Times had a peculiar format, in that it effectively had two front covers. There was an outer 4 page section, that worked as a protective cover, and was a heavier weight than the text pages. You can see that above, with the cover created from a mix of freshly cast type and plates created from scans. (The advertisement for an ‘Archie’ is for an anti-aircraft gun – no children’s party complete without it!)

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The page above was printed entirely from plates.

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This page shows the internal front cover, which repeats the title, date, edition number and price. The text here was freshly cast for printing.

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For the bits of type that couldn’t be created on the caster, and for which we didn’t have clear enough original scans, we sourced some digital fonts, and recreated the text using those. So, above, you can see Frisco Antique Display, and below, Dharma Slab Condensed, both of which approximate the typefaces originally used.

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The question ‘Am I offensive as I might be?’ (above) was one asked by staff officers of the troops on the front line, questioning whether they were sufficiently eager to attack the enemy. It was turned around by the writers of the newspaper to suggest that the officers themselves might well be considered offensive.

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The Wipers Times is an incredible example of creativity and humour, created in truly perilous circumstances.

Baddeley Brothers – an account by the Gentle Author

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Printing is good. Books are good too. So a book about printing? Sign us up.

The book in question is an account of Baddeley Brothers, the specialist printers, by the Spitalfields Life’s Gentle Author. It’s the second collaboration between the Gentle Author and our studio partner David Pearson, and features wonderful illustrations by Lucinda Rogers. It’s a great subject and a fantastic creative team – so it’s no surprise that it’s a glorious book.

We nipped along to St Bride’s yesterday afternoon for the launch (the perfect place for it, since much of the archive material featured in the book is held there).

The sumptuous cloth-bound book tells a story that reaches across four centuries, and is a real treasure trove. It features archive imagery from throughout the company’s history, as well as a host of tipped-in samples, used as section dividers, illustrating the range of Baddeley Brothers’ print techniques. There’s also a fine glossary of printing terminology, and an anatomy of envelope design.

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Lucinda Rogers’ illustrations document Baddeley Brothers as it is today, her wonderful and energetic line work brilliantly capturing the mood and atmosphere of printers.

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David’s quiet and considered design gives the subject plenty of room to breathe; and the tipped-in dividers are just wonderful, all featuring Commercial Type typefaces.

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We asked David about his experience of designing the book: “What I loved about it was that the Gentle Author has an uncanny ability to bring people with shared interests together on a project. Commercial Type have long been interested in the work of the Caslon Type Foundry, which was based right next to Baddeley Brothers. I’ve worked with Baddeley Brothers on several jobs, and have a strong relationship with Commercial Type too (many of whose typefaces are based on materials held at St Brides).”

There’s a wonderful alchemy going on there, and it’s a rich mix that has produced a stunning result. We can just imagine the joy of some young graphic design student picking it up off the St Bride Printing Library shelves decades hence. No doubt Baddeleys will still be going strong.

Glorious stuff.

Buy the book.