Jinny and I rushed out to greet our postwoman earlier this week as she trudged to our gate with another heavy bundle of packages for Thyrsus Press. This one contained not one, but two treasures from abroad.
The first of these is a font of 60 point caps and figures in a sturdy old workhorse of a typeface known simply as "Grotesque No. 9". It was produced by the venerable English foundry of Stephenson Blake which operated continuously from July 1818 until its final dissolution in 2005.
The foundry, based in Sheffield, England, started as a small regional operation but soon entered the big leagues when they stumbled onto an opportunity to buy a portion of the legendary Caslon foundry in November of 1818. The type they cast was considered the most precise in the UK. By the turn of the 21st century, however, with demand for metal type dwindling, they sold everything of value - including the original matrices for such historic typefaces such as Caslon Old Face, Baskerville, Bell, and Fry’s Ornamented. These mats ultimately made their way to the collection of the Type Museum in London.
The design of Grotesque No. 9 is credited to Eleisha Pechey, who also responsible the Windsor typeface, which is familiar to anyone who has seen the credits to virtually any Woody Allen movie - or the titles to the great 70's sitcom, "All in the Family".
However, this attribution is a little confusing since the Linotype website states that Pechey was put to rest in 1902, four years before Grotesque No. 9 was officially released.
In any case, the type in question is a great example of the sturdy san serifs that were common in both Britain and America at the turn of the twentieth century. This stark and imposing face was chosen by Wyndham Lewis to set the tome of the manifesto pages of his vorticist magazine, BLAST, in 1914. It later became a favorite of English television designers in the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Our other new arrival was a etched copper plate of what appears to be an early Indian airplane pilot, that we acquired from an eBay seller in Uttar Pradesh. The seller claims that it is over 80 years old. I have no idea who this gentleman is, or what kind of vessel he captained. I only knew that we had to have it. We welcome comments from anyone who might be able to tell us more about this image or the person depicted.
We have no idea what project we will use these for yet, but I'm sure it will be interesting.