The last time I was at the Crayton-Heritage plant, I was picking up the final odds and ends of our retrieval. Before I left, I was invited by proprietor Duane Juell to look through a galley rack that (if I remember correctly) he had moved as-is from its former location at Heritage Press. Out of a hundred-odd galley slots, most were given over to galleys full of leading. But there were some treasures, too. There were a good 35 – 50 galleys with type specimens set and waiting–that is, demonstrations of what Heritage was able to print with either their hot-metal (Ludlow, Linotype) or foundry type, prepped for the next prospective customer to ask “What’s Bembo look like?” With no “drop-down” menus, that was how clients selected a typeface–and who knows when you might need a type-sample. There were a few odd standing forms (mostly job-work: time-sheets, mailers, etc.). There were half-a-dozen galleys of copper dies for printing “mill script” (more on this in another post). I found one galley full of Hebrew in what looks like 36-point, which I retrieved for some future use. And I found a remarkable galley combining both Linotype slugs and some foundry type. The galley was preserved with some bent leads and some die-cutting rubber securing the form in the galley.
As I looked at it in the galley, I realized I needed to bring this home, too. I asked Duane, and after he reviewed what I’d found, he gave the OK. It was a simple piece, but meaningful to me: under the title “Source for Type” and with the italicized phrase “A Well-Kept Secret…That Needs to Be Told!” was a form celebrating and advertising the hot-metal and foundry capabilities of Heritage Press.
There were several testimonials from various university and trade presses, and a long body of text extolling the aesthetic virtues of printing from metal type. Aside from the house-specific information (dates for the beginning of Heritage, former and current clients, etc.), the celebration of the craft itself was resonant. I made sure to preserve the form as it was, and when I headed back north to Davidson, this rode in the front of the truck with me. For the past few weeks, I’ve been keeping an eye on the form as it sat on top of a type cabinet. Today, with some black ink already on the press, and some free time, I decided to move the form onto the press and run a few copies.
It was an interesting experience. There’s a large negative space that seems to have been designed for the insertion of a cut (but of what, I don’t know). And the phrase “Source for Type” had been letterspaced and had come loose. But the rest of the form was still pretty well composed. As I took a pair of tweezers and nosed a lead into place here and there, I was quietly moved (quietly, because I had students in the lab with me, composing type elsewhere) that here I was in 2019 gently re-aligning a form that had been cast in hot metal and composed by hand who knows how many years or decades prior.
Heritage was incorporated into Crayton-Heritage in the early aughts, and no telling how long before that Heritage had felt the need to run off an advertisement of their own capabilities and expertise. After a few leads had been re-aligned, and a single 18-point quad added to the form around the letter-spaced foundry type at the top, I gently planed the form and then tripped the press to ink the type. With no work-ups or other abnormalities, I returned the ink carriage to the feed-table, inspected the form again, and then fed a single sheet of canary-yellow paper (up-cycled from the campus Print Shop) into the press. As the press cycled through the stroke, I was strangely moved–again–by the copy that wrapped around the cylinder at the end of the stroke. It’s a simple advertisement, but here it is, printed from the relief form that had been haphazardly locked up with bent leads and stored in a galley rack (itself moved whole-cloth by forklift) years, decades, ago.
Like the salt-packets, pencil nubs, razor blades and (yes) cigarette ash that I find in the California cases, it’s a testament to the craft and the people who worked at these presses and cases. As I tell students over and over (and over) again, imagine turning on a computer from 10 years ago–let alone 20, 30, even 40 years–and expecting it not only to work, but to produce beautiful copy.
It’s a simple piece, but it will be framed and hung on the wall of the lab at some point soon, and another copy sent down to Crayton-Heritage. I may try to find an appropriate cut to fill the negative space. And, I may print a sort of colophon condensing the provenance of this piece into a pithy, identifiable few lines. It seems clear that there was more that needed to be done to the form, but at the same time, there’s a work-a-day matter-of-factness to it as it is that, to me, is really compelling. While this can’t really be conveyed in a lecture or lesson or workshop, that infra-thin relationship between our fingers as we set and print today, and those half a century back (whose owners, I’m sure, are no longer living) is what continues to compel me into the shop.