Type pictures | Sheaff : ephemera

Type pictures


Letterpress "type pictures"—scenes constructed from metal type elements—became particularly common during the 1870s and 1880s, especially with the popularity of Oriental, Egyptian, Assyrian, Moorish, Chinese and Japanese motif type elements. (During that era, lithographers also produced Oriental, etc. themed pieces, but I am here focusing on work done by typesetters/letterpress printers.) As with all "creative" arrangements of type, the quality varied. Some typesetters created lively and interesting scenes, while less talented workers seemed to have thrown together elements rather randomly. There is a lot of cringingly poor work out there to be found. 

Here are some pleasing examples of such ephemera . . .


One panel of a folder for a tea merchant. This is an amazingly creative piece of work, with letters formed from "printers flowers" and border elements, and the letters made structural parts of a scene constructed in
Oriental style metal type elements: Combination Chinese Border Series 91, Patented January 18, 1881
 by MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, designed and cut by William W. Jackson.


 Trade card  (Collection of Jonathan Bulkley)


Trade card. This printer, Harding, put together a little scene unusual in that five colors were used. Most of the metal type elements are from Combination Chinese Border Series 88, Patented September 30, 1879
by MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, designed and cut by William W. Jackson.


Specimen trade card design in Printers International Specimen Exchange  Vol.IV 1883  By George Sutherland, Foreman at Baxter. The central scene, built up of type elements, is exceptionally realistic.


Crouch&Fitzgerald(Fox)150Trade card ( Collection of George K. Fox )


Printed using seven colors of ink! ( Sheaff collection )


Front cover of 1878 autograph album ( Sheaff collection )


Back cover of 1878 autograph album ( Sheaff collection )


Cabinet card backmark imprint (detail), Boyer's Art Studio, Reading Pennsylvania


Trade card ( Collection of George K. Fox )




 From an 1880 newspaper carriers' address, commonly delivered to patrons in the 19th century
at the beginning of ech new year. (Courtesy Brown University Library)


A section header from Collier's Cyclopedia, 1882


Trade card (Collection of Joe Freedman)


A section header from Collier's Cyclopedia, 1882


 Advertising cover ( not in Sheaff collection )


Another Oriental-style card by King, slightly differing from the one above. The text on the back of the card, surrounded by more ornamental decoration, reads, "By still greater achievements in the manufacture of Ornamental Type, I am enabled to present these Beautiful Designs, with which a never ending variety of styles may be furnished, appropriate for Fine Cards, Orders of Dance, Menu Cards, Invites, Ornamental Circulars, etc."


(Collection of Joe Freedman)


Booklet cover. The hills / mountains were constructed of bent brass rules.


Trade card. This one is not a "type picture" composed of arranged metal elements; rather, it is an engraved Oriental scene of the sort "type pictures" strove to emulate. (Collection of Joe Freedman)