Thoughts on lettering

‘Paragraphs on Printing’ and the demise of the secondhand bookshop

Last week I chanced across a first edition of Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing at a secondhand bookstore in Sydney, Australia. paragraphs aThis was a wonderful discovery, though I was impressed at the size and range of books on printing, typography and bibliography at this shop.

I have had a Dover reprint of this book for many years so was familiar with the contents but the ‘real deal’ was a delight to hold and handle. As I took the book home with me I wondered how long it had remained in this store, how long had it been since it had seen sunlight on its covers. I reflected that I was liberating the book from its imprisonment, giving it a new lease. However, this particular store is not long for this place. It is closing, and all books there were at half the price that had been carefully inscribed in a 2B pencil on the flyleaf. (I’ll let you into a secret – the original price for Rogers was 100 Australian dollars.)

My delight at finding this volume was tempered later by the realisation that yet another secondhand bookshop is going, in this case the owner is taking the contents online. Now, I may be old-fashioned but browsing a bookshop, let alone one that sells a pot-pourri of books just ain’t the same online. I love the randomness of secondhand stores, the fact that despite the efforts of the staff to place their charges in some order you yet may stumble upon a curiosity, a treasure, something that you’d never find elsewhere in this ordered, well-mannered world.

paragraphs bLet us support our secondhand bookshops, let us open new ones, let us let others know our enthusiasms for this remnant of a milder time.

printing Thoughts on lettering

Homer, TE Lawrence and Bruce Rogers

TE Lawrence is (or perhaps) was an icon of Englishness – the world has moved on. The David Lean film in which Lawrence was played by Peter O’Toole (no finer role) claimed him as a legend, and I grew up thinking so. (I’m surprised that the film came out in 1962 when I was 5, so I must have seen it much later – it still haunts me.) I collected Lawrence books as a teenager, and still have this Odyssey, though others have since gone in various house moves.

I never read the Seven Pillars… (who can claim with honest heart they have?) and always hankered after a copy of Crusader Castles. Being once an archaeologist I had romantic dreams of retracing Lawrence’s steps through Arabia – not that I was ever much interested in Middle Eastern art or archaeology.

Reading Rogers’s Paragraphs on Printing (Dover reprint, 1979) the other week I chanced across some information about the first Lawrence Odyssey. This was initiated by Rogers, used Centaur, of course, and took nearly four years to complete.

Rogers writes that the ink was specially made: ‘I had an ink made from an old formula I found in Savage’s Decorative Printing, which called for balsam of copaiba instead of varnish. It was somewhat slow in drying, but has still a pleasant spicy aroma on which many people have commented on opening the book.’ This edition came out in 1932.

My edition is the first UK trade of 1935, though printed in the US.