I’m overly romantic about type.
I remember the moment of epiphany at fourteen when I thought to myself: what if every word I’d ever spoken, written, typed on my battered electric typewriter were papered over the walls. What would the overriding message be? What could anyone glean about my grand narratives?
Now, when I’m typesetting, the same thoughts mingle, but without my teenage self – obsession, I find myself wondering what other people have written with the second, third, fourth-hand type that I hold. There are so many possibilities, so many combinations, and its impossible to really ever know. I could own type that wrote a masterpiece, that composed a love poem, that advertised an iconic exhibition. Exciting.
The night was dark and cold and the road was winding. My friend who had lived in Kent for much of his 50+ years had not heard of the place. We were looking out for a yellow milk-float to signify the turning. It all looked pretty deserted.
I’d gone to pick up a job lot of printing supplies: some leads, some spacers, some unusual quoins. I wasn’t really sure what would be included, but I was grateful to meet and chat to someone else with similarly quirky printing penchants.
And that’s where the evening went off the page. The man worked out I was just starting out, and we had a brilliant conversation about the different Adana machines, including my small 5×3, compared with the 5×8 which he had just sold (I coveted it).
He gave me some brilliant advice, and we talked about typing case layouts. (Aforementioned uninitiate friend was suitably bored).
One of the most exciting things he told me was that he and a friend had buried a huge Adana machine in one of the fields on their land. It was all I could do to not offer to start digging there and then. It made me wonder how many other priceless irreplaceable pieces of printing history are slumbering under daffodils.
As I turned to leave, the lovely man showed me something that looked rusty and smelt of diesel. It turned out to be an Adana Guillotine, which I’d heard of but never seen. These things are rare, They don’t even really come up on eBay very often, and he was going to throw it away. To my surprise, and ill-concealed wonder, he then proceeded to give me this wonderful device, carefully wrapping it up in a red overall so that kind friend’s car would not become diesel-splattered.
I got it home not really knowing what to expect, not knowing what I was unwrapping, and it was rusty. Cue much Googling about rust and paint. A bit of elbow grease, and a lot of white vinegar and lemon juice later, and the thing was transformed. It needs some more work, and will undoubtably need new springs, but it is a machine of beauty, and one I am so proud to have.
I should mention that the rest of the misc Letterpress items were also lovely. Some cool random type, some rare narrow quoins, and enough spacers to typeset the KJV. I was a very happy printer tonight!