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Buying vintage type specimen books


The problem with buying old wood type is identification. Sometimes the maker’s mark is stamped on the A block but often it’s a case of putting on your deerstalker hat and trawling through old type specimen books. This isn’t a chore as I love these books, the ones from the 1930s onwards are reasonably cheap, especially if you avoid ebay and support the dwindling second hand bookshop market. I recently picked up this 1938 edition of  ‘A catalogue of Typefaces, Ornaments, Borders and Rules’ produced by Western Typesetting in Bristol. A hefty hardback of 232 pages, 10×12 inches in size full of joy! It smells wonderful too.

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Restoring my Peerless No. 2 press – rollers


Today I’ve moved one step closer to restoring my press with the arrival of the newly recovered rollers from The Roller Company in Sheffield. They look great in red too. They were very helpful with ideas on how to restore the rollers – the originals were completely perished having not been used for 20 years – it was difficult to imagine what they looked like, but thanks to help from Richard Small at Letterpresser, who also has the same press as me (called Ivor), sizes and spec were duly sent to The Roller Company.

Now all I have to do is put the press back together again – now where’s that tin of nuts and bolts gone?

Contact John Burke at The Roller Company on 0114 248 0305.


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Learning about Agate


I’ve been looking for a metal type scale – I did have one when I was a student at Liverpool Polytechnic but I’ve mislaid it, probably thinking “I won’t be needing that again!”

I found one in the US on – with both picas and agate measurements on – it’s a useful 24 inches long with a handy hole to hang up.

I’ve never heard of an Agate so I’ve discovered it’s a measurement relating to 5.5 points, or about 1/14 of an inch. An Agate font is commonly used to display statistical data or legal notices in newspapers. It is the smallest point size that can be printed on newsprint and remain legible. The Guardian has a specially designed Agate sans for use in it’s classified and sports sections.

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