Wayzgoose 2016

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Follow the Goose to St Bride Wayzgoose

On Sunday 15.5.16 St Bride Foundation hosted the second Wayzgoose. The hundreds of people who came to enjoy the-print-and-type-lovers’ get-together all left with full bags of goodies, tummies and good vibes.

This year we were fortunate enough to have the  sponsorship of Paper Mule and Commercial Type – their generosity is much appreciated.

What was on offer?

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We had something going on in each part of the Foundation – from the basement bar to the Passmore Edwards café – and in between stalls, exhibitions, and hands-on activities.

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Passmore Edwards’ refreshments stall

For the first time visitors learned about the history of Fleet Street, the delightful Salisbury Room – bedecked with newspaper equipment and ephemera – providing the perfect backdrop to Len Friend’s fascinating insight on the area as an iconic hub of newspaper production.

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History of Fleet Street told in the Salisbury Room

Building on the success of last year, the Bridewell Hall, Farringdon Room and Library reading room, were buzzing with activity. The special ambience of meeting like-minded people with shared interests from all over the country and indeed abroad was summed up in one participant’s comment: “It is one of the few chances a buyer has to actually browse what is on offer, as these products are normally only available to buy online.”

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Justin Knopp

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Browsing up close

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Bridewell Hall – perfect setting for selling and buying

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Richard and Molly Caslon in the Farrington Room

The ever-popular print workshop combined demonstrations with hands-on experience of letterpress printing including the production of a Wayzgoose coaster and a printer’s paper hat.

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Steve Linehan showing how the Wooden Hand Press works

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Zoe Chan making her first Printers’ Hat with Barry Felsted’s guidance in the Workshop

The raffle prizes this year were particularly appealing with a first prize of a one-day Adana print course (White ticket 160), a second prize set of limited edition London Labour and the London Poor prints, proofed from original 19th century wood engravings held here at St Bride (Yellow ticket 177) and the third prize Fleet Street Apocalypse print by Stanley Donwood (Yellow ticket 243). All winners have been contacted and prizes sent.

We are already looking forward to, and preparing for next year’s event.

 

 

The Fire Next Time

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“Today considerably more that one hundred thousand men who were disabled by the Great War seek employment.” writes “One of Them” at the start of his article “The Problem of the Disabled Man”. The anonymous author’s work appears in the St Bride Students’ Cake, a book “reverently dedicated to the glorious memory of those St Bride students who made the supreme sacrifice in the great European War 1914 – 1918.” *

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This showcase of technique “has for its object the raising of a sufficient sum of money to found a St Bride Students’ Printers’ Pension in commemoration of the students killed in WWI” and was published in May 1921. We have two copies in our Library, a rather tattered paperback example and the other a hardback edition. As it’s title hints, this was an in-house production “printed by the Students, mainly disabled men undergoing a course of training to prepare them to take up work in the printing office”, printed on handmade paper, coated paper, antique text paper, matt art paper, Japan cream paper and chromo paper (the donators of which are all listed).

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“The Students” are almost exclusively men, just one woman is named as a contributor, Miss May Hartung (credited elsewhere in the book as Mary), a lithographer who’s introduction design and Book Plate pages appear right at the start. As such the men of their time have left us a rather vivid snapshot of their class and their age though there is one frustrating and puzzling  omission. Wren’s famous church steeple next door is depicted several times (including on the book’s cover) but there is not a single illustration or description of the Foundation building itself.

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The major event in the book is of course the “Great War” and three articles are eye witness accounts of the conflict from unusual perspectives (none of them of trench combat on the Western Front). The Bolshevik revolution is also mentioned several times and in 1921 with civil war still raging in the former Russian Empire this was very much unfinished business. The major concern however for the men seems to be what now?

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The over riding consensus is to carry on cheerfully for the good of business, country and God (in that order). Many of the writers mention the traumatic transition from a structured “outdoor service life” to that of a hugely competitive labour market and exhort their fellow printers to do their best, reminding them of their patriotic duty to one’s nation (the opening article is even titled “Patriotism”) while providing more practical advice through articles “On Selling Oneself”, “From Army to Print”, “Printers! Help the Disabled Man”, “Science for Printers” and “Apprentice! What Will You Become?” F. C. Davis writes “As we come back to civil life we all feel that years spent in the services are all lost ones.” but concludes “It is business experience we have lost, and now that commerce is getting more scientific every day we must study the science of our craft to be in the front of all nations.” Kipling’s poem “If” is quoted at the end of an article on how best to compose a job application letter and later in the book is reproduced in full.

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This being a student publication some of the articles are full of “in” jokes impossible to fathom now, and many of the writers display a rather Pooterish sense of humour. One of the longest articles is by L.J. Cumner, “Cheddar the Exquisite – Notes of a Cycle Tour”, in which he recalls the pleasures of Chepstow, Gloucester Cathedral and Cheddar “the most exquisite village I have ever set eyes on.” He describes the Mendips as “mountains” and disparages Bath, “a very fine city… But the people in it! Effeminate men, freakish women – the girls are more or less normal! I’m speaking of appearances only.”

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“At Work in the Mines”, by J Fuller (who can be seen in the plate above of St Bride Foundation Printing School Staff, middle row, first left) recalls an often forgotten aspect of that War. He was  captured “at 1 o’clock in the morning of March 24” three days into the German spring offensive of 1918 and was subsequently sent as a forced labourer to the coal mines of Westphalia. “The food here was quite inadequate for men expected to work as hard as the Germans expected the prisoners to do, and had it not been for the timely arrival of emergency parcels from the British Red Cross Committee at Minden, and the parcels from England which began to reach us in July, it is doubtful any of us would have returned” Compelled to toil through 12 hour shifts the “work was of the heaviest character, especially to men who had never engaged in anything more arduous than setting type or working a printing machine.”

The conflict was experienced too in Bride Lane itself, as described by Joseph Stuart in “A War-Time Reminiscence” in which he recalls a three hour air raid by Gotha bombers on London on 28 January 1918. The St Bride Foundation evening class students, he tells us, took shelter in “the basement” of the building (possibly today’s Bar or the Foundry room). Following a nearby hit he mentions this was the bomb which damaged Cleopatra’s Needle but it seems the writer is compressing two different events in his memory as the Needle was struck on a different raid on 4-5 September 1917.

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The Needle on September 5, 1917

The students pass the time with a jolly sing song and the joke about a particularly shattering explosion being caused by “old Gutenberg knocking through an 8-page forme or dropping a case of nonpareil” encapsulates the gist of most of the humour in the book. “If the Hun campaign of frightfulness was launched with the idea of terrifying the British people into submission, it certainly failed so far as Saint Bride students were concerned.” and the whole thing is portrayed as memorable a lark. Sixty-seven people were killed and 166 injured in this particular attack. “Casualties included 14 dead and 14 injured in stampedes when people queuing for admission to shelters were alarmed by maroons (rockets) set off as a warning that a raid was expected: another 11 were injured by shrapnel from antiaircraft fire. Many of the other casualties were caused by a single 300-kg (661-lb) bomb which fell on the Odhams printing works in Long Acre, which was being used as a shelter.” Raymond H Fredette, The Sky on Fire: The First Battle of Britain 1917–1918

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Bombed out Odhams printing works in Long Acre. The iron and brick construction would have been near identical to St Bride Foundation’s

The most remarkable eye witness account is provided by F. C. Davis (quoted earlier) who was present at “Der Tag”, The Day. Known to the British as Operation ZZ, this was the mightiest gathering of warships in a single place on one day in naval history and the St Bride student saw it from a British airship, probably the blimp NS8 which can be spotted in several photographs and illustrations of the event, the internment of the modern German battle fleet off the east coast of Scotland on November 21, 1918.

In “The Day – and After” he writes “We now pick up the Grand Fleet. What a sight! You see nothing but perfect parallel lines of ships like dark dots on a grey surface. We forge in front of the fleet and just before 9 am you discern a few dark dots ahead. Out goes the signal, “Enemy ships sighted,” and you hear from below the bugle call, “Man your guns,” and every man in the fleet “stands to” his gun ready if the enemy should show fight . We now get a close view of the once great German Fleet. What do you see? An endless straggling, ragged line of ships. Look astern! You see regular parallel lines of our navy. What a lesson; you can now realise the difference between the British and German fleets; Britons are born sailors, Germans are only made in a generation.”

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The Pride of the German Fleet’ the battleship ‘Bayern’, the first German ship to carry 15-inch guns, surrenders, never having fired her guns in action (by Oscar Parkes)

Davis goes on with similar sentiments for much of his essay. “Would the British have surrendered their fleet like that? No! A thousand times No! They would have fought to the last man, ** even if they knew that defeat was inevitable. They would have died willingly doing their duty rather than surrender their fleet in such an ignoble manner. They still have the traditions and grit as in the days of Nelson.” Indeed much of the book contains such jingoism including this very surprising line from the first essay, “Patriotism” by T.W. Oswald-Hicks, B.A. “It is the national embodiment of that personal devotion expressed in those few words which have happily been so familiar of late, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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No room here for the likes of Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon, though the book does end with a poem, What Odds? by A. L. Butler. Of course they couldn’t know that ahead of them was the great Depression, the General Strike and an even more devastating war though Davis strangely evokes this future when, as the sunshine breaks over the German navy  below him he writes “What was this, a sign? A night of darkness passing into a morning of peace – a real peace. One remembered the old allegory; after the flood God sent the rainbow as a message.” Seven months later most of these same German ships were at the bottom of the sea, scuttled by their own crews at Scapa Flow and Mr Davis neglects to complete the last line of “the old allegory” best expressed in the spiritual song – “God sent Noah the rainbow sign/ no more water but fire next time.”

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* A peculiar description for a World War also waged in Africa, the South Atlantic, the Pacific, the Middle East and Dardanelles.

** Here Davis may be consciously echoing Douglas Haig’s “Backs to the wall” order of April 11, 1918, when he stated “Every position must be held to the last man” in an attempt to halt the same offensive in which J Fuller was captured and sent to the coal mines.

Truth Against all the World

On the Thursday morning of the (presumably freezing) fifth of January 1893, sixty compositors turned up for work as usual at the newspaper offices of the Evening Citizen at 24 St Vincent Place, Glasgow (one of the first red sandstone buildings in the city) only to find they had been locked out. A new metal gate was in place and scab labour had been smuggled in the night before and lodged in bunk beds specially fitted in the offices. A piano and crates of beer had also been brought in for their entertainment.

All the locked out men, “many of them old men” were members of the Typographical Society, a trade union founded back in 1817. They were informed that they would only be admitted back into the workplace if they gave up membership of the Society and that the Citizen would from now on only employ non-union labour.

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The Evening Citizen

The compositors were quickly loaned a small printing office at 102 Maxwell Street from which they produced their own newspaper, The Echo (later named The Glasgow Echo). In it, as they pointed out in issue 1, they were able to put their side of the story and refute the “lies” coming from the “nest of rats” at St Vincent Place. On Monday January 9 the men took the free paper out onto the streets and distributed twenty thousand copies which soon found their way all over Britain.

Determinedly radical from the start, issue 2 proposed a new evening paper in support of the labouring people of Scotland. “Time and again expression has been given to the desire that we, the working classes, had a newspaper devoted to the advocacy of our views on the industrial question.” the editor thundered. A limited company was set up and registered at 42 Argyle Street with £16,000 subscribed by ordinary men and women readers. On May 8 the Glasgow Echo became a daily, paid for publication with 150,000 copies printed for that first issue.

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Issue number 1

The last “gratis”, double crown size version of the Glasgow Echo (no. 32) with its mast head slogan, “Truth against all the world” and “guaranteed circulation of 30,000” went out on Friday April 14, 1893 and it is a complete set of this free, rank and file publication that is in the collection of our Library. A rare thing. How it ended up here is unfortunately lost in the mists of time. The single bound volume is accompanied by a hand written letter headed “A Lockout – and what became of it” and signed only by  “I. E. October 1903”.

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It’s mystery donor wrote “In these days, when relations between the L.S.C. (London Society of Compositors) and their employers are somewhat strained over the question of the proper method of working mechanical appliances in newspaper offices it has been suggested that a complete file of the Glasgow Echo, printed by the locked-out compositors in 1893 might furnish some entertaining reading to the members of the St. Bride’s Institute.” (sic) In 1903 the “members” would of course have been training to enter the print trades themselves.

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The paper’s content consisted mainly of reports of meetings in support of the locked out men which took place regularly all over the Glasgow area, reports of other union meetings nationwide, editorials on various subjects including parliamentary debates, letters to the editor (in which one person describes the Echo as “a plucky little sheet”), satirical reports from the pickets outside the Citizen offices (including a gleeful piece on one of the scab  compositors who was jailed for 40 days following a drunken assault on his wife), a would be amusing sketch column, a serialised short story (Ralph Macpherson: A Story of the Clyde, by “Mungo Tinto”) and, come issue 4, the inevitable football and other sports reports began to appear. The back page was taken up by adverts and classified notices. Close to the end of its run saw the introduction of Piscatorial Notes, a column on fishing and fish farming written by “Captain Cuttle”.

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It makes for some rather dry reading today I’m afraid, and with its tiny type a slightly painful one though the editorial in issue 5, January 18 shows how little has changed since 1893 and the current recession. “When all, or nearly all of the material wealth of the country flows into the pockets of the few, need we wonder that among the many there is a scant provision of the necessaries, let alone the comforts of life.”

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The letter writer “I.E.” noted “All the locked-out men had been kept together, and were again reinstated as one companionship, so that everything looked promising and a great triumph for Labour.” Unfortunately he concludes that without advertising and with the “envy and jealousies of your own class” the radical paper “slowly but surely declined” until it was bought, ironically, by Viscount Rothermere, founder of the Daily Mail, “the original stockholders receiving back a first and final dividend of 4 shillings in the pound.” The compositors auld enemy, the Evening Citizen enjoyed a somewhat longer life, folding in 1974.

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St Bride Foundation c. 1903

Thank’s to Bob Richardson of St Bride Library for drawing the Echo to your humble (Scottish) author’s attention. A version of this article was published origionaly in the Hidden Glasgow forums.

Poison Rat

There is only one English painter who’s every new work makes headline news in the mainstream media upon its unveiling. This same English painter’s art is now almost always instantly stolen, covered up or defaced. Last week the press reported that one of his most popular pieces in Bermondsey had been boarded over or removed by the owner of the property on which it was painted, because this English artist does not exhibit (primarily) in galleries but on walls, streets and in public spaces. He is the Bristolian known as Banksy, and one of his works can still (just) be seen within a 20 second walk away from St Bride Foundation.

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If you are enjoying a drink at the top of the steps outside the Old Bell pub on St Bride’s Avenue you may spot a dark smudge on the wall at your feet which at first glance looks like weather and age damage to the stucco. It is in fact the faded remains of Poison Rat, one of a series of illegal pictures using this same stencil template Banksy had placed in various locations in London and Los Angeles around 2005.

The rat is pouring a jug of toxic liquid down the steps leading up from Bride Lane, though more than a decade later the aerosol paint is so faded this is now hard to “read” and some web sites have claimed the piece no longer even exists. The green goo once gushing from the poison jar has been completely erased by time. My photo above dates from 2011.

Within a 20 – 25 minute walking radius of St Bride Foundation two more Banksy rats can still be seen. On the wall of the Mount Pleasant Post Office is a Placard Rat, again dating from around 2005, its original slogan ALWAYS FAIL(E) was lost during the Banksy/King Robbo feud which saw a few of Banksy’s works defaced following a perceived slight to the older London graffiti artist’s work. A few yards across the road from this the daubed over remains of Cash Machine & Girl can still be discerned just off the Roseberry Avenue/Farringdon Road junction.

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The other Placard Rat, still in rather good condition, can be spotted on Chiswell Street near the Barbican. Again the original slogan (London doesn’t work) has been painted out.

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Slightly further afield, about 45 minutes away are the protected remains of two vintage, canine inspired works at the Cargo Club on Rivington Street, Guard Dog and His Master’s Voice. However Guard Dog is currently partly obscured. Both date from the early 2000’s, and my photos here were shot a few years back.

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Banksy, Cargo, Rivington Street London

About 55 minutes away on Essex Road in Islington is another Perspex shielded work which  demonstrates some of the pitfalls local Councils can face when confronting the ol’ “is it art or vandalism” debate. In this case, Very Little Hurts, a large scale piece was deemed to be art worthy of saving and following attacks by Robbo’s crew and others, it was covered by a plastic sheet which unfortunately has itself become so badly vandalised it’s difficult to discern the original picture underneath (photo from 2012).

28 Banksy, Essex Road London

Meanwhile, about 1 hour and 40 minutes away (or up to 2 hours if you take the number 4 bus) two pieces were wiped by the same Islington Council. A1 Road to Anywhere in Archway was removed in 2012 following a single complaint that it was “an eyesore”. Down the road, oppisite Tufnell Park tube, Macanical Flowers (below, photographed in 2011) was also scrubbed. Last time I spotted it in 2o12 some taggers had graffed up the wall beside it  and I assume that the cleaners brought in to blast the tags must have wiped off the early 21st century Banksy piece too, accidently or otherwise.

23 Macanical Flowers, Tufnell Park Road

A protected work could still be spotted at Jeffrey’s Street, Camden until recently, but the Perspex has been removed (its outlined remains can still be seen) and the Banksy painted over. Another protected picture still exists on Clipstone Street and up until last week, The Grange in Bermondsey. However the south London painting dating from 2014 was removed from view last week and may even have been cut from the public space for private sale (the property owner has refused to comment: “Disappearance of Bermondsey Banksy stirs concern for its future” Southwark News 11 February 2016).

Banksy’s last London work, Les Miserables, was visible to the public for barely even a single day (January 24 2016) when the owners of the Knightsbridge building on which it was painted first tried to remove it, (damaging it in the process in front of the world’s press) then covered it up with wooden boards. Vandalism or art, Banksy had made an undeniable cultural impression and there are few street artists working today who could (or would) repudiate his importance. If you want a photo of one of his London pieces though you had better be quick.

” The scene in London at that time was about only one guy that nobody knew who he was – and he was painting like crazy the whole city and the trains I had seen here and there.” Brazilian street artist Nunca, VNA magazine, issue 28

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Wood Printers

Emerging from the Library collection today were a set of four wood (probably oak) panels depicting workers in the print trades, carved in deep, crisp high relief. Each is approximately 40 x 30 cm in size.

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We have a compositor, a lithographer, a book binder and a printer using a star wheel etching press. Each man’s portrait is framed by a Romanesque arch with paired columns of a different design, each arch is individually decorated and the abutments are adorned with unique pairs of dragons or acanthus sprays . Why we have them, who created them, what they were for and where they come from is however, a mystery.

There are no catalogue notes accompanying them though their arts and craft style, the gentlemen’s fashions and whiskers and exquisite if sober details would suggest a very late Victorian/Edwardian era of origin? Intriguingly, behind the lithographer’s head can be seen a print of a large factory featuring a highly ornate gothic gateway and tall chimney in the forested background, indicating these were probably portraits of actual individuals connected to a specific place rather than generic “types”. The factory is difficult to see with the naked eye, and I only noticed it after it had been photographed.

If any one has any more information about them we would of course love to hear from you. Until then they remain a mystery carved from oak and wrapped in cardboard.

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If you would like to have a peek at them, they will be on display in the Layton Room from 11 January until the end of February 2016 as part of an exhibition of vintage Valentine Cards. Entry is by request from St Bride Foundation’s Reception.

St Bride Unveiled

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An exhibition showcasing the highlights of the St Bride Foundation collection.

22 July – 25 September // Layton Room // Free entry

Over its 124 year history, St Bride Foundation has acquired an unparalleled library of artefacts and books, which now plays an important role in illustrating the history of print and graphic design, as well as the history of our culture in general.

This summer we are offering an exclusive opportunity to see the highlights of this collection, with items ranging from the Book of the Dead to the typography of 20th Century road signs. The exhibition will run from 22 July until 25 September. Many of the items have not been on public display in the same room before.

Here are a few glimpses of what will be on show:

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The exhibition will also coincide with a pop up book shop, as well as earlier opening times in the bar, allowing you to make the most of your time at this historic venue.

Keep your eyes on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds over the next two weeks for some more previews of what you will be seeing at St Bride Unveiled this summer.

St Bride Foundation Wayzgoose

The word wayzgoose causes a frown of confusion for many people. Quite often, this facial expression is quickly followed by the question, ‘what’s a wayzgoose?’. For printers, on the other hand, this slightly unorthodox word is a signal to cobble together some money and inspect the diary for availability.

On Sunday, St Bride Foundation held its own wayzgoose. But before we jump into the narrative, let’s appease any remaining frowns of confusion by providing a definition.

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The earliest sense of the word wayzgoose in the OED is ‘an entertainment given by a master-printer to mark the beginning of a new season’. Apparently, these events traditionally took place at Bartholomew tide (around August 29) under candlelight. John Southward writes in his 1875 publication, Dictionary of typography and its accessory arts, that a wayzgoose generally consists of ‘a trip into the country, open air amusements, a good dinner, and speeches and toasts afterwards’.

Later on, the meaning appears to have broadened to simply denote ‘an annual festivity by members of the printing establishment, typically held at summer’.

Yet the use of the word in a couple of other publications includes different details, leading us to doubt that the meaning of wayzgoose has ever been absolutely definitive. Some authors write that it actually took place at the beginning of Winter. Others use the more general term of ‘journey-men’ for those in attendance, rather than strictly ‘printers’. Even the origins of the -goose element carries some mystery, although a popular theory is that the feathered animal was the traditional centerpiece of the festival’s dinner.

Nowadays, the word has a new meaning once more. A wayzgoose remains an annual festivity for printers, but now it’s also a place to buy and sell printing equipment, type, and various other related products of this inky craft.

NB: Our brief definition has now escalated into a linguistic analysis, so for the sake of your attention we shall stop here. After all, we have Sunday’s event to cover.

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At 10:59am, over 30 stalls, manned by various presses, type-foundries and design studios, awaited the rival of their fellow printers through the Foundation’s blue iron doors. Activity on Twitter suggested that it was going to be a busy one; thirty minutes into opening, this forecast proved to be reliable.

The busy halls and stalls didn’t mean that it was a hectic affair though. The general vibe inside actually remained relaxed and pleasant. It was a fitting atmosphere for a sunny Sunday afternoon on Fleet Street, where the streets were ghostly quiet in comparison to the typical mid-week rush. .

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Above: Woodblock Letterpress

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Above: London Centre for the Book Arts // Below: LCC 6×6 Collaborative Letterpress Project

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Above: The Tom Paine Press // Below: The Stumptown Printers (All the way from Portland, Oregon)

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Even though there were cash boxes placed behind these tables, the day wasn’t really orientated around money-making. Rather, it was an opportunity for people to showcase recent work, provide some inspiration, and meet new faces, as well as catch up with the old.

The day was also very much a family event, with people of all ages in attendance. (When someone who is still in compulsory education is helping people on an Adana Press, you come to realise that the future of print is in safe hands).

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Above: A few wayzgoose beer mats printed on the Adana at Roy Caslon’s stand 

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Above: Mark Pavey Letterpress // Below: Woodblock Letterpress

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Above: The Carpathian Type Foundry //  Below: Cleeve Press.

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Above: Typoretum  // Below: Wood Engraving by Zillah Curtis

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Above: Resident artist, Peter S Smith, with daughter, Zillah Curtis // Below: Starch Green

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Along with the two halls, there were also a pop up cafe in the Passmore Edwards room with tea, coffee, and freshly baked cakes. Two floors down from the cafe was the workshop, where people could print some keepsakes and (more crucially) learn how to make a printer’s hat.

Unfortunately, the Foundation’s Fleet Street location prevented us from offering a countryside jaunt as part of the day’s activities. However, the local area’s historic connection with newspapers allowed for a different, more unique element, which was to educate visitors on the production of newspapers.

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To conclude the day, the raffle was drawn. The lucky few have already been notified, but to reassure you that it wasn’t fixed, we have written the winning numbers below..

1st Prize Five Limited Edition Mayhew Prints – (Pink 216-220)
2nd Prize Stanley Donwood Print – (Yellow 111-115)
3rd Prize Chiswick Press Initials – (Pink 206-210)
4th Prize Complete Set of Ultrabold – (Yellow 101-105)
5th Prize Gutenberg’s Apprentice (Hardback) – (Yellow 196-200)

By 4pm, the day was over and the pack-up commenced. The feedback we have received since has been fantastic and it’s still coming in. Whether you bought something, sold something, printed something, or just aimlessly wandered around, we’d like to thank you, as all of the nice words are consequent of your attendance. A big thanks also goes out to the Wayzgoose Committee, who made the whole thing possible.

Until next time?

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Election Typefaces from Stephenson, Blake and Co.

Bob Richardson has been into the St Bride Library archives for a special Election Day blog article. 

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, in 1915, we were due to have a General Election in the United Kingdom, but the outbreak of the Great War put paid to that. The Parliament Act of 1911 had reduced the length of a Parliament from seven years to five, and the previous election had been in 1910. (In fact there were two elections that year due to a constitutional crisis caused by the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords, but that’s another story).

As you visit the Polling Station today you may be struck by the rather anachronistic posters which identify those buildings designated as such. Some local authorities have held huge stocks of these paper banners for much of the 20th century, and in some parts of the country those on display today may have been printed many years before you were born. Some modern versions are simply litho-printed copies of posters originally printed, in a handful of cases, before the Second World War.

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The sign outside St Bride Foundation today.

The UK’s main supplier of printed election paraphernalia is Shaw & Sons, established in the City of London in 1750 by Henry Shaw, a native of Nairn. The majority of the Polling Station signs you see today as you cast your vote at a local school, town hall or perhaps even the St Bride Foundation (we are a City of London Polling Station today) were almost certainly printed by the company at their works in Crayford, Kent. The design has changed little in almost a century, retaining the simple sanserif bold condensed face familiar to generations of voters. Originally printed from oversized wood type, they are now produced by lithography. The typeface has changed very slightly over the years, although the differences are sometimes subtle and not immediately apparent.

The print code on some of the older posters indicates that they were produced for General Elections many years ago. The cluster of tiny numbers printed at the foot of the signs, typically “500M/9/55” indicates in this example that half a million copies were produced in September 1955. Check your local signs to see when they were printed – they may be older than you.

Shaw’s have produced many millions of these paper signs over the last century, and continue to do so, but some local authorities are still using stock originally purchased decades ago. There are a mixture of old and new banners decorating the entrances to the 50,000 Polling Stations around the UK today. You can read more about the history of Shaw’s at www.electionsupplies.co.uk

Of course the St Bride Library holds a number of items relating to Shaws, including a commemorative booklet issued in 1950 to mark 200 years of trading, and a collection of 25 proof sheets showing some of the more exotic letterpress faces available a century ago.

General and local elections have always been important sources of revenue to the printing trade. The production of ballot papers, posters and candidate publicity material kept local and national printing businesses busy for many months in the run-up to polling day. That remains the case today.

stephenson and blake election day

Here at St Bride we hold a small amount of psephology (election science) related material, including a poster from Stephenson Blake, who recommended the use of certain typefaces for election printing in the late 19th century. The pre-point-size names used to identify each face suggests that the poster may have been produced for the election in 1895 or perhaps even earlier.

SB&Co Election Faces (1)

Whether the typeface recommendations were based upon anything other than legibility is open to question. Stephenson Blake were experts in marketing their wares, but were also known to publicise faces which were held in large quantities, or even downright unpopular (such as Francesca Ronde, based upon the handwriting of Lady Frances Stephenson) in an effort to move overstocks. Francesca Ronde was something of a vanity project, and sales staff were instructed to “push” sales of this face, but printers didn’t like it and it remained firmly on the shelf in Sheffield. It certainly wouldn’t have been much use for election material but apparently Four Lines Antique No. 3 (a bold slab-serif face) was just the ticket, as was Double Pica No. 13.

SB&Co Election Faces (2)

The choice of typeface for election material is perhaps rather more significant than we generally assume. The use of the Gotham typeface in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is generally acknowledged as one of many factors which contributed to his eventual success. Inspired by lettering on the Port Authority Bus Terminal on New York’s Eighth Avenue, Gotham has now become ubiquitous. The graphic designer Brian Collins described the use of the face as the “linchpin” of Barack Obama’s campaign imagery. I wonder if Mr Gladstone ascribed his successful 1880 campaign to the clever use of Double Pica No. 13? I suspect not.

The Mosley Effect

Library Manager, Bob Richardson, writes about James Mosley’s hugely important role in the history of the St Bride Library collection.  

For a collection with such a long pedigree, the St Bride Library has had comparatively few librarians. Since opening in November 1895, there have been only a handful, with two long-serving incumbents who each transformed the collections in their own individual way.

William Turner Berry was born in 1888 and came to St Bride as a young man, having worked as an assistant librarian with Lambeth Public Libraries. His initial pre-WWI tenure was brief—he was called up in 1914 and returned to the library in 1919 after serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Turner Berry was not only librarian, but also the general manager of the St Bride Foundation. Although he retired, aged 70, over 56 years ago, he is still remembered with affection by some of our older readers.

Former Reading Room Vernacular Signage

On 9th January 1956, the chairman of the St Bride Libraries Committee met with a 20-year-old Cambridge student called James Mosley, to discuss job opportunities within the library. James was acquainted with Turner Berry, and while working at Stevens, Shanks during vacations, had borrowed material from the library as an aid to identifying artefacts held at the foundry. The young man made a good impression and was offered the post of assistant librarian on a salary of £500 per year (£9.62 a week) subject to a successful interview with members of the Library Sub-Committee, which included the redoubtable Beatrice Warde. The interview presumably went well, for later that year, upon completion of his studies, James Mosley joined the library staff, succeeding Turner Berry as librarian two years later upon his retirement in 1958.

Nineteen-fifty-eight is an important year in the history of the library, for it marked the start of a transformation which led to the establishment of the unique collection we hold today. Under Turner Berry the library thrived and developed, but was still primarily a collection of books, many of them unique. Under the management of James Mosley the focus changed. Books would remain at the heart of the library, but the very small collection of printing artefacts in 1958 expanded with James at the helm during a period of significant change within the printing industry. As traditional type foundries wound up their businesses and closed their doors, overtaken by filmsetting and offset-litho, James Mosley was waiting in the wings with his wheelbarrow. A friend of James tells me that this distinguished academic could be seen on occasions carrying his latest haul along Fleet Street to the safe haven of the library. He was never too proud to roll up his sleeves and dig around in the grime of a defunct printshop or load a van with some precious cast-iron relic which had been destined for the local scrap dealer.

Kelmscott Chaucer (1896)

Kelmscott Chaucer (1896)

When we show visitors around our red brick building in Bride Lane, we take great pride in displaying many of the “jewels” in our collection. The deluxe edition of the Kelmscott Chaucer, printed in Hammersmith over a four year period ending in 1896, is a breathtakingly beautiful example of letterpress craftsmanship, and a favourite with visitors. The book came here in 1966 because James lobbied for the money (£1,000) to purchase it. The generosity of the Corporation of London provided the funds. The historically important collection of steel punches from the Caslon Foundry, including a number cut by William Caslon I, came to the library as a result of negotiations initiated by James. Soon afterwards the Pouchée decorated types were also transferred from the Oxford University Press thanks to James’s perseverance. They are unique in the world, and one of our most significant acquisitions.

Caslon Punches

Caslon Punches

Pouchée Blocks (2)

Pouchée Blocks

Pouchée Agricultural Alphabet

Pouchée Agricultural Alphabet

Our letterpress workshop contains a fine cross-section of machines covering almost two centuries of printing history, but when James arrived in 1956 there was only an arthritic wooden Common press, acquired by the governors in 1894 for fifty shillings. Today we have a fine Albion (acquired by JM, 1969), a Columbian (JM, 1969), Stanhope iron press (JM, 1960) and an Ingle newspaper press (JM, 1969).

The compositor frames from the Oxford University Press, c.1668, came here in 1973 and 1988 (James again), followed by the surviving punches and matrices from the Figgins Foundry (via their successors, Stevens, Shanks). The unique Kinneir/Calvert road sign maquettes—the original road sign models made for a presentation to the Minister of Transport in 1957—came here because James sought them out and arranged their transfer. An enormous collection of original material by Eric Gill, including inscriptional rubbings and original drawings and early sketches for faces such as Gill Sans and Jubilee were also acquired as a result of James’s intervention. Even more material is held in storage, including an 1845 Wilson guillotine and a pair of vintage pivotal type-casters. James is a determined man, who rarely accepted “No” for an answer, and whose dogged persistence in the acquisition of important artefacts usually bore fruit – eventually.

Gill Sans Comparative Drawings

Gill Sans Comparative Drawings

Gill Sans Lower Case

Gill Sans Lower Case

Figgins Matrices

Figgins Matrices

Kinneir Maquette 2

Kinneir Maquette

There is hardly a shelf or cupboard in the St Bride Library which does not contain printing hardware and artefacts relating to the history of type founding and ‘the black art’, or the creation of letters in their myriad forms, which does not owe a debt to James Mosley. He was a librarian, a man who should, by definition, be interested in books, but his passion for the physical objects of printing and typefounding have given us a unique collection which goes beyond anything a reader might expect to find in a building with the word “Library” above the door.

On the 18th of April this year James Mosley celebrated his eightieth birthday. He is still a regular visitor to the library with which he has now been closely associated for six decades. Next year will mark the diamond anniversary of his first day behind the enquiry desk at St Bride. His friends and colleagues at St Bride wish him the happiest of birthdays and a continued association with the library he helped to transform from a very good collection of books to one of the world’s greatest resources of its kind.

Happy birthday James.

William Blades and The Blades Library – A Commemoration and Celebration.

On Monday, St Bride Foundation hosted a special event to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of William Blades.

william blades

Blades (1824 – 1890)

Blades was a printer, author and bibliographer. His involvement with printing started at the age of 15 after becoming an apprentice at his father’s company, Blades, East and Blades. He went onto enjoy a very successful career, vastly improving the firm as a partner.

Although he was an adept businessman, he is also known for his written work. In fact, his obituary in The Printers’ Register (May 1890) suggests that his ‘industry and research’ would have led him to great fame had he devoted himself to a purely literary career, except ‘he was, and preferred to remain, above all things a printer’. Regardless of these notions, he was still recognised as one of the leading authorities on Caxton in his time and remains to this day a hugely important figure in the history of printing.

Blades’ personal library was purchased by the Foundation after his death. This collection of books, research notes and personal correspondences firmly established St Bride Library’s collection.

Various guests from the print, design and publishing industry were given the opportunity to see numerous items in our collection. One of these items was The Enemies of Books (2nd. ed. 1888), which was written by William Blades in order to warn people of the various potential threats to the printed page. Within the book, Blades recalls an interesting tale of a bookworm which he kept for three weeks, very much like his own pet. Blades apparently fed the insect fragments of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.

Boethius’ work is likely to be quite an expensive delicacy for the modern day bookworm. Nevertheless, we have so far refrained from selling any folios the work for such purposes.

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Another item out in the library was The Pentateuch of printing (1891)The copy on display was previously owned by Talbot Baines Reed. A note of appreciation from Blades’ widow, Eliza, was pasted into the front endpapers. She thanks Reed for completing the work, which was published after his death. These personal elements added to the evening’s retrospective narrative.

blades restoration

Blades Restoration

The reception was also a reason for celebration, as it marked the refurbishment of the William Blades Library. This space, which is located inside the original reading room of the library, is a close replica of Blades’ study in Surrey. Improvements have been made on both a functional and aesthetic level, ultimately enabling us to offer a new historic location for our visitors to use. Conveniently, it also helps towards our central mission to preserve the heritage of print – The Blades Library, after all, is another lasting relic of the man who filled the surrounding bookcases.

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No drinks allowed in the William Blades Library.

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Before departure, guests were invited to print their own keepsakes on an Adana printing press. These small commemorative cards were a physical reminder of the work achieved by members of the team, as well as what was a very enjoyable evening for all in attendance.

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Congratulations also goes to Theatre Manager, Mikey Palmer, who celebrated his 10th anniversary of work at the Foundation on the same night.