A world in which printing would no longer be done from relief metal type was already foreseen half a century ago or more, and when the effective end came during the 1970s it was rapid and almost complete, leaving traditional processes that had once been universal in the hands of craft printers and type-makers.
But the materials for making type, like the punches and matrices which hardly changed for centuries, are durable. Huge quantities survive. Not only can they still be made to serve the purposes for which they were originally created but, taken together, they form an archive that can still yield new information about the types that were used to set and print the books of the past, and some of which form the model for digital types that are used today.
The task of preservation is a formidable and an expensive one, and those who are willing or able to undertake it are rare. The urgent question that now needs to be addressed is, how will the long-term preservation of this archive be achieved, and who will set the agenda for future research?
Justin Howes died in February 2005. This lecture, the first of a series, is given in his memory. He was not only a distinguished scholar, whose wide-ranging researches were making an important contribution to our understanding of the types and lettering of the past, but he learned to cast type by hand and to demonstrate to others the techniques of a secretive and mysterious trade.
James Mosley, Visiting Professor in the Department of Typography in the University of Reading and former Librarian of the St Bride Library, writes and lectures on the history of type.
The Friends are still raising money for the Justin Howes memorial lecture fund. We are currently £1200 short of the £5000 that we need to raise in order to ensure that the lecture runs in perpetuity. If you would like to make a donation please contact Rob Banham by email (email@example.com) or phone 0118 3787213 (day) 0118 9623472 (eve).