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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 4

International Specimen Exchange

International Specimen Exchange.

In our last issue we acknowledged vol. x (1889) of the Printers' International Specimen Exchange. Not having seen any of the earlier volumes, we are unable to make comparisons. It is to be regretted that the unity of the original scheme has been broken, local exchanges on a narrower scale having been started in various places, which have not only weakened this one, but lack its most valuable feature—the annual collection, in one group, of the best work from all parts of the world. No national collection, however complete, can be of equal educational value with an international one. These volumes possess peculiar interest as recording the fashion of the time. Since the late Oscar Harpel gave ornamental printing so great a stimulus by the issue of his Typograph, remarkable progress has been made. When the first issues of the American Model Printer appeared, ten years ago, it was a revelation to those who were only familiar with ordinary plain work, occasionally enlivened by a border in bronze, or prominent lines brought out in red and blue. But most of the startling effects in the old Model are now out of date. Compared with the advanced work of recent years, the display is inartistic, and the color arrangements repellant. The volume before us not only marks progress, but indicates how great a field still remains for improvement. There are 406 specimens, all the quarters of the earth being represented, but the great majority—334—are from printers in the United Kingdom, Of the latter many are contributed by workmen, 33—and not the least creditable—being by apprentices. There is remarkable variety in style and quality, from the finest work, to specimens which as the editor says, « set one's teeth on edge. » The best work shows the predominance of three countries in the styles of type peculiarly their own—England for body-letters; America for fancy type; and Germany for borders. Of the German houses, Schelter & Giesecke are the best known—their fine borders are everywhere. One in particular—the lovely Gothic which is equally available for one, two, or three colors—appears in many of the finest jobs. The American combinations do not even make a good second—the job in which they are most effectively used is one from the Liberty Press, Wexford, in which also a good effect—very commonly neglected—is produced by two printings in the same color. There are contributions from all the chief European capitals; and they clearly prove that Germany is allowed to do the type-designing for the whole continent. Our own library of specimens must by this time be fairly complete, as we do not see a single fancy letter in the whole book, or a border—save a single combination—which we are unable to identify. The few specimens of copper-plate and lithe-work are good—we specially note an excellent landscape in colors by Troedel, Melbourne—but they seem a little out of place in a work almost wholly typographic. The specimens are arranged alphabetically according to the names of contributors, and the first—a card from the Actiengesellschaft für Schriftgiesserei—is a very neat specimen in German style. A good deal of use—not always judicious—has been made of the Kampe's tint and Baker's stereographic processes. As a general rule, the press-work is beautifully sharp and clean; but while nearly every specimen has some special excellence, comparatively few attain the highest standard in all points—that is to say, in artistic design, well-balanced display, and harmony of color. Some are little else than elaborate studies of border, the display of the lines being weak. The German specimens are generally characterized by great accuracy of composition, with somewhat heavy style; but in this latter respect one English job would be hard to surpass. It is composed of seven borders (one a double design) set outside of each other, and printed in strong colors. The entire border—for a quarto page—is two inches wide! One beautifully-printed job is noticeable for inappropriate ornaments. It refers to a hand-bell concert, and has four sportiug corners, and a central vignette of a wide-mouthed frog. There are some interesting examples of rule-work, one being a sketch of a web-machine, by an apprentice. A curious litho-typo specimen is from Cologne. It is the business circular of a pork-butcher (appropriately named Hamm), and is adorned with hogs treated in a very original decorative style. As a simple, neat, and effective job, with a judicious scheme of color, we may note the card of the Manchester technical school exhibition of printing. Another with a brighter scheme of tints, and worthy of high commendation, is by Mr H. Richardson, Greenwich. A very tasteful card is contributed by Mr W. Myers, Southport, and the Visiter office in the same city sends some admirable specimens. But we have no space to enumerate the works in detail. We note that free use is made of Caslon's two-line pica « Ivy » and his new corners; but as a rule the ornaments are from abroad. New-Zealand is represented this year for the first time—we hope it will not be the last.