James Mosley. Handmade Type: Thoughts on the Preservation of Typographic Materials

By Saxe, Stephen O. | Printing History, July 2007 | Go to article overview

James Mosley. Handmade Type: Thoughts on the Preservation of Typographic Materials


Saxe, Stephen O., Printing History


JAMES MOSLEM. Handmade Type: Thoughts on the Preservation of Typographic Materials. (Justin Howes Memorial Lecture, St. Bride Institute.) Oldham: Incline Press, (1) 2007. iv, 24 pp., sewn, stiff card wraps. $20 (which includes postage and a $5 donation to the Justin Howes Memorial Lecture fund).

Justin Howes, a widely-talented typographer and printing historian, died in 2005 at the age of 41, cutting short what promised to be a career of great achievement. In this first Memorial Lecture, James Mosley has paid tribute to Justin Howes, and performed a valuable service by outlining the current state of the effort to preserve the world's printing heritage. Justin was part of that effort, as an organizer of exhibitions and cataloguer of collections, as the curator of the Type Museum in London, and as the translator of Caslon's original typefaces into faithful digital versions, known as "Founder's Caslon."

At the outset Mosley quotes Harry Carter's dictum, "Type is something that you can pick up and hold in your hand." Carter went on to point out that "bibliographers mostly belong to a class of people for whom it is an abstraction: an unseen thing that leaves its mark on paper." Carter's books on the early history of printing brought to bibliographic scholarship something that had previously been missing: the perceptions of a scholar who, as Mosley says, "had done most of the things that he wrote about."

The world of typography is now a much different one from that of Carter, who was born in 1901. Letterpress printing gave way to offset lithography, and letterpress composition (hand-setting, Monotype, and Linotype) was superseded first by photocomposition and then by computer composition. During the years of transition we have been fortunate to have had James Mosley among the generation that "did its best to do something about the recording of some of the older technologies while there was still time." An important landmark of that effort was the 1863 Earls Court "Printing and the Mind of Man" exhibition initiated by Stanley Morison. It brought together old presses, matrices, punches, type, and woodblocks that had been the basis of the ancient technology. The illustrated catalogue of that exhibition remains a valuable record to this day. …

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