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.
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.
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.