Movie Ad Mats, a Superior Printing Press, and Tiny Type

More accessions have arrived for the permanent collection of the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule project, as well as artifacts that will be distributed among all tiny museums!

An eBay seller had a variety of tiny type (6 and 8 point) in wrappers that mostly had never been opened. The rubber band on one is still flexible after decades in storage, even. This isn’t unusual. Printers weren’t perfect about using every bit of type ordered, and sometimes type was purchased on behalf of clients and the projects never materialized.

This set of type is a mix of type produced in a foundry and type set on a Monotype, as well as some spacing material. It includes type from American Type Founders (ATF), a group of nearly three dozen foundries that merged in response to the rise of Linotype in the late 1800s, but eventually fell afoul of market changes; and from Andersen Typesetting Company, which appears to have cast on Monotype and sold sorts to handset shops, among other lines of business.

I showed the 6-point Copperplate Gothic Heavy to my older kid, who marveled that anyone could read type that small, or even see it to set it. I dug around on the kitchen counter and found some product inserts that had fine print that was probably 5 or 6 points—and fairly legible. But can you imagine setting 6 point (or 5 or 4!)? For some typesetters working at newspapers, the classifieds, legal notices, and other work might mean an endless amount of tiny typesetting. (They were paid higher piece rates for smaller type, though.)

I was also able to contact someone with a large supply of movie ad mats, all in very good condition. Unless I can score some much older flong—I think it’s really nearly all long gone—I believe I have all the pieces necessary to fulfill the expected edition of 100 tiny museums. It’ll be challenging to figure out which ad mat goes to which collection, but I’m keeping anything boring out of the mix.

Movie Mats cxd.jpg

Finally, I bought my first press. Admittedly, it’s tiny and doesn’t work. But this is where the addiction begins. Tiny presses have a long history, and there’s even a book about this: Personal Impressions: The Small Printing Press In Nineteenth-Century America. I own a copy, and it’s delightfully researched and well illustrated.

The Cowper’s Parlour Printing Press, shown in an 1864 book, was intended for home use!

The Cowper’s Parlour Printing Press, shown in an 1864 book, was intended for home use!

But these were largely either professional tiny presses, for business cards, small jobs, or portability; or parlor presses, meant for adult entertainment in an era when adult entertainment wasn’t nearly as “adult.”

However, real tiny presses for kids far predate the little rubber handstamped letter kits you might be familiar with. I purchased a very good condition Superior Star Rotary Press, probably dating to the 1950s, and sold under a variety of names. It requires setting rubber type into channels that are locked around a cylinder. The inking sheet is, of course, long dried out, but the rubber type and illustrations seem pliable. We’ll see if I can get an impression out of it.

Superior Star tiny press.jpg

I continue to talk to more and more people with stashes of material and interesting stories. More items are in negotiation or already shipped and I’m awaiting delivery.

I haven’t written much about the letterpress book that will accompany the museums, but I’m narrowing down the plan there, and continuing research towards the near-term manuscript drafting.