An occasional newsletter about forthcoming books and events

November 2018

In this newsletter . . .

progress on: volume II of Printing at the University Press, Oxford, 1660-1780

a footnote: the world's smallest type?


progress on
Printing at the University Press, Oxford, 1660-1780, volume II: Type

Pre-publication price holds until 1 January 2019

to be published December 2018


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The sheets for this have now been printed and are at the binders. As we have announced previously to customers who bought volume I, the scale of the book has meant that we have taken the decision to have it printed digitally. This has been greeted with consternation by some customers and it was certainly not our first choice but we felt it was important above all to publish the research.

Perhaps of some comfort is that we have endeavoured to prepare this volume to exactly the same format as volume I: binding, volume size, paper (Mohawk Superfine), page size, typeface (12pt Monotype Van Dijck), typography, and dust jacket.

As an encouragement to buy we are offering copies at a discount for orders placed and paid for before publication. So if you would like a copy please check the details at our website and let us know as soon as possible, saying if you would like a standard or a de luxe copy - we will send you an invoice.

If you placed an order in response to our earlier email, you should have received an invoice (and paid we hope!).


Although the main book is being printed digitally, the dust jackets of the standard edition have been set and printed letterpress, to exactly the same format as volume I. This picture shows type for the various components - spine label, front and back covers, and fold-ins - on the bed of our Western proof press. Again, the same paper and layout have been used as for volume I.


Also the texts that accompany the contents of the extra material in the de luxe edition have been hand-set and printed letterpress here at The Old School Press. That additional material takes the form of leaves from twelve books printed across the period 1660-1780. Over the past few years I have watched the market for copies of books that were beyond redemption - boards off, stained pages, missing title pages, etc - that justified breaking them so that at least they could serve one more purpose in life, so to speak.


For some books there is enough for just one leaf, whilst in other cases a handful of leaves have been available. Each leaf or set of leaves has a page giving a few details of the book concerned and the types used, all printed in hand-set Van Dijck (for which we now have a good range of sizes).

The leaf or leaves for a book, together with that introductory page, are then slipped into a translucent envelope, the set of twelve envelopes being held in a simple portfolio. Here are the twelve piles each of fifty copies ready for the de luxe copies, and a title page cum colophon which is pasted onto the inside of the cover of the portfolio.

In the de luxe edition, the book is quarter bound in brown leather (as volume I) with a paper marbled by Jemma Lewis on the boards (the colour way is as volume I but the marbling style is different). The book and portfolio are then housed in a slip-case.

All being well, we shall be publishing the third and final volume next year - I am in the process of preparing the index and the text of the extra volume that will form part of the de luxe edition, of which more anon!


The world's smallest type?

A mad venture in 1,000 copies


 Last month we were fortunate to visit the library of the Abbazia della Santissima Trinità near Naples. Amongst other treasures, we were shown a copy of an edition of Dante's La divina commedia, a tiny volume of 499 pages published in 1878.

Allegedly it was printed with the world's smallest type: about 2pt. I've set 4.75pt Bible type but this is ridiculous. I also read that (according to the Grolier Club) every 30 pages required three months to set and print, and that fresh type had to be cast for each forme.



We hope you have enjoyed this update on the Press's activities.
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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2018

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2018