Australian print recruitment consultant James Cryer’s six-year labour of love has been recognised with a place in a library in the heartland of Britain’s printing history.
Already accorded a forward by Frank Romano and a three-page review in Print21, ‘The Romance of Letterpress’ has now been accepted for the St Bride Foundation’s print archive, off London’s Fleet Street.
Located close to the so-called “cathedral of Fleet Street”, in Bride Lane, the St Bride Library is more than 125 years old and contains about 60,000 books and several significant type collections.
The hardback book, which tells the story of his grandfather’s ten-month research trip” to the US during 1913-14, is now available online and Cryer reports “great reviews”, some from industry elders.
He says the book – set in “that last gasp of the age of innocence before mankind descended into the Great War” – is not just about printing, but also explores how print was emerging into everyday lives in that period, seen through the eyes of “someone who was there at the time”.
“Letterpress – as part of the wider resurgence of ‘craft’ – is now also making a comeback, and so this book is also a celebration of that process, which has been swept under the mat of progress.”
A bonus is the collection of picture postcards sent to the “newly-minted letterpress printer” by his fiancée in Sydney. Hidden during the intervening years, these have now been faithfully reproduced in full colour in the book’s pages.
As also are his views of the numerous bosses – “both good and bad” – and the appalling workplace conditions of the time.
“I have tried to keep it entertaining and informative, a tour through life as it was then, seen through the eyes of a young tradesman,” he says. During the course of that journey, he raises a number of questions – how did they print postcards in three-colours; what was the ‘D&RG’; and who (or what) was the mysterious ‘Elle’ – and relates brief period working for RR Donnelley while in Chicago.
Appendices deal with the Linotype machine – “the world's most complicated yet underrated contraption – and pays tribute to its ‘SHRDLU’ keyboard layout; while another is dedicated to the little-known The Lone Hand, which he describes as “one of the most important publications in Australian magazine history”.
Local printers, Intertype in Melbourne, have spared no effort in the production of the landscape A4 ‘coffee-table’ hardback format book. As one industry “elder” put it, “a great production – your grandfather would be immensely proud”.
See also: It’s 1913 and a bold voyage of discovery in print is beginning
Pictured: St Bride Foundation Librarian Sophie Hawkey-Edwards, with archivist and British Printing Society member Bob Richardson and the book