Monday, March 17, 2014

"Faith of our Fathers" Colonial-style Notepads!


It began as a Fund Raising Idea.

As the creative juices began to flow,  the idea of something every-day-practical began to form.  I don't know about you, dear reader, but I am one who requires paper notes.  Note pads are the mainstay ingredient of both my Optical Clinic where I practice as a Licensed Optician, and also in my music as a performing guitarist / song writer, and also my Amateur Radio activities at A.R.S. WD4NKA. Not to mention Paper Wren Press! Indeed, I live and breathe paper : a pen and paper will carry me much more efficiently than the time it takes to type things into my iPhone, Kindle Fire, or any i-Pad that I've had party to, nice as they are.  

Another dynamic began to emerge.  Our church's summer missions projects, one to Haiti, another to Belgium to help serve at the Ghent Music Fest. These good folks have to raise their own money.  Why not help them out?  

Still another dynamic that came into play was the historic and traditional nature and legacy of the Letterpress Process.  Not to mention the fact that Paper Wren's "house fount" is the Old Style No. 337 Caslon, a very good representation of the Caslon that was clearly the most commonly used font in the American Colonies of the 18th Century.  

The idea came to me to create something that would both display Letterpress in it's element ( letters....hello?), and something that would harken back to the heyday of the font I planned to use.  Having a fair background with 18th century publications, and possessing several specimens of these publications, I thought it might be a bit different to print scripture based notepads conveying not only a Bible verse, but doing so in a way that would have been readily recognised to the American or English 18th century reader.  This would include the often confusing (to the modern eye) "tall S", that 's' that looks like an 'f '.  The figures are a bit different, too, with descenders.  Also included in these old fonts are what are called "quaints", which not only the tall 's', but archaic ligatures, where two letters are joined together on one piece of type.  Most notable from this era would be the "st" and "ct" ligatures.

We also chose a foundry border consisting of a Maltese Cross spaced by a horizontal 'lozenge'.  Both of these pieces harken to the 18th century.  The border has to be 'built up' as the text, or body type, is being set.  This can resemble building a puzzle, choosing the different quads and spaces to support both the type and carry the borders evenly, and in a way that the pieces-count works out.  

The results are shown in the following photos:
This is the assembled type with border, locked together in the chase that will hold it in place on the press. These small lock-ups are no easy deal: it's easy to apply too much pressure when tightening.  The idea is to hold the type and all associated pieces firmly and solidly without so much pressure that the chase iron begins to torque, or the "forme" begins to buckle.  It must lie perfectly flat, which is why the imposing table upon which this lock-up is created is graded and polished granite.

Once the press is inked, makeready is complete, and initial centering adjustments are made, a proof is pulled to gauge the depth of impression, level of ink on the forme, and leveling / centering geometrics.

This particular verse is Galatians 2:20.  Notice the Maltese Cross / Lozenge border.  The text needs to center within this border as centered as possible.  The Capital is inset, which presents a whole other set of challenges.  On this particular verse, the capital has no adjoining letters to form a word: it stands alone, so I spaced the other letters away from it.

This verse is John 3:16, where the inset capital is part of a multi-letter word.  Thus, I did not space the "O" from the capital "F".  But the line below is spaced by a 5/em space.  These verses are left justified.  The Bibles of the period exhibit both full justification (both sides of the column) or left only justification.  Because of the balancing act of setting type simultaneous to an assembled border, I chose the latter form of justification.  Choose your battles.

I have always liked the strength and finished look of an end binding on both Notebooks and Notepads.  In our case we chose to use a linen fabric tape binding.  This is the same as used for Composition Books.  The front and back covers are recycled chip board.

. . . and here they are!  Each pad contains one verse, a total of four verses are printed.  Pads measure approximately 4.25" by 5.5", perfect to slip into an A-2 sized greeting card (which is the size greeting cards we tend to print at the Paper Wren.) 

Each pad contains fifty sheets of text weight Natural White Classic Laid, closely resembling the paper types used in the 18th century.  These sheets are both pen and pencil friendly, have a low acid content, and have a very slight texture. The inks used are Linseed Oil based, carbon black and red.  The border is hand designed, printed using a copper die produced by Owosso Graphics.  I drew the original design after an actual tatted lace piece.  And, of course, tatting was huge in the Colonies of the middle eighteenth century.

We conscripted our type-metal "Doughboy" mascot to help hold the pads while we did the photo-shoot.  This is the completed "John 3:16" pad.

Here is a close-up of the Psalm 118:24 card.  Here, we balanced the capital "T" between the two lines of verse.  The way the verse address is spelt is also authentic to the time.  I have seen the italics juxtaposed between chapter and verse, and sometimes the roman numerals are in small-caps, but I thought the italic might provide an interesting break.

This is a close-up of John 3:16.  I might mention that the version of the Authorised KJV used in these cards are the 1768 Oxford text revision.  The King James version had experienced three major revisions prior to the Oxford Revise, or the "Blayney Edition", which followed Cambridges earlier "Parris Edition".  I must hasten to say that these revisions had nothing to do with the content of the text, but rather reflected the changes wrought in the English Language between 1611 and 1750.  Also, the Oxford edition made use of the Italicised letters to denote words added by translators to make the Koine Greek or Hebrew understandable in English.  Another revision was produced still later, with further updated spellings.  The Bibles most known in the Colonies of 1769 would have been either the Cambridge Parris text or the Oxford Blayney, there are only minor variant differences in spelling and use of margin notes.  Also, later versions of the simpler, locally printed Bibles omit all notes and Apocrypha, such as the Bible produced by W. Young, Bookseller and Printer, 1783.  It should be recognized that actual printing protocol in minor technical details vary from printer to printer.  These are called Printer's Vagueries.

A close-up of Galatians 2:20.

. . . and Philippians 4:6.

The "Black Letter" font used might be about one hundred years old.  It was labelled in the tray as "Lombardic", but I have to research that.  Such as it is, it does match 18th century titling specimens, and is authentic to the era.    The use of the word "Ye" might be noted as well.  In the early days, when Saxon characters still mixed with roman characters, it was not unusual to find Celtic letterforms in use.  Baileys Dictionary of 1732 describes the English "th" consonant sound as being represented in the old Welch and Saxon as a character that resembled a capital "U" with a right-side descender.  This made it look a little like a "y" to the more modern, 15th and 16th century eye.  Thus, printers began the convention of using the "y" character as representative for "th".  Thus, the line reads "the good Printers of the American Colonies"

When we did the photo takes for the Etsy Shop and this blog, I couldn't resist bringing out my quill pens.  Yes, I'm one of those crazies who cut and scutch their own pens.  This particular pen has a late 19th century modification promoted by none other than Edward Johnston, who consulted with Gill in the designs for Kelmscott Press fonts under the watchful eye of William Morris.  Johnston advised the use of an added ink reservoir cut from the spring of an alarm clock!   That's what I did.  His was an internal 's' shaped piece of spring metal inserted into the shaft, mine is more like Mitchell's reservoirs, external, and cliped over the nib split.  Either way, I owe the whole idea to Mr. Johnston, late of Kelmscott Press.

I had to include this.  I get a lot of the "what the heck is that 'f ' doing in there??"  When I explain it's common use, I usually get the incredulous stare.  SOOooooo......if you also have that indcredulous stare, here is a page from J. J. Rousseau's "Eloisa", printed postumously, in English.  The actual printing was done in Dublin, 1795.  The tall 's' appears at the beginning and in the middle of any word.  The small 's' occurs only at the end.  Not unlike Greek, really, which also employs the use of two 'sigmas', and used in the exact same manner.

These pads are now available on our Etsy Shop. Stop by and visit!  Also, note that we can also do other verses or perhaps that favourite line from Jane Austin's "Pride & Prejudice".  The terms for custom orders are explained on Etsy.

That's it for now.  Stay tuned!

You Humble Servant,

G. Johanson, Printer.

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