Notes on ‘Printer’s Progress 1851–1951’

This is a really interesting 1951 publication that attempts to measure the evolution of printing since the 1851 Great Exhibition. Rosner points out in the introduction that if there had been an exhibition of printing in 1800, the exhibits would have changed little from “apparatuses and processes”, as he puts it, used in 1500.

The 1851–1951 one-hundred year measure was decided on to tie-in to the Festival of Britain, although in difference to the Great Exhibition which attempted to showcase Britain’s industrial prowess, (including a printing works set up in the exhibition), the 1951 celebration was much more general and also focussed on cultural and social aspects of British life and not just content with industry.

As someone who works for print firm Balding & Mansell, who have patrolled the survey and Rosner’s time spent on it, there is a healthy investigation into the ‘economic and social standing of the printer’ for both 1851 and 1951.

The printer’s appreciation of design is mentioned at several stages, as design as a discipline becomes separated from the role of the printer within this time span.

The study also recognises the development of Linotype.

Interesting quotes, (my notes in italics, NB):
—”A degree of virtuosity was no doubt required for the cutting of those abruptly graduated thick and thin strokes, and a certain type of craftsman has always allowed virtuosity to get the better of good taste.” A dig at elitism maybe?
—”The beauty of white paper can be emphasised and turned to the best advantage in the designer’s hand, assisted by the accomplished work of present-day mechanical reproduction techniques.” Designers need to understand processes in order to maximise the potential of their work.
—”Abstract elements and forms are but token symbols of factual motifs; and their right arrangement, giving equal justice to them all on the printed page, is the designer’s function and justification of his role in the world of printing today.” Rosner recognising the importance of the designer to modern print, as the role of layout and composition has moved away from the printer and compositor of old, particularly with the advance of lithography printing processes.

However, the most important change that Rosner discusses to the print trade between 1851 and 1951 is the rise of photography, not just in the fact that photographs are printed, but in how an image of illustration and some typography etc is captured, in order that a plate can be made to be printed from. This observation is driven home by the way Printer’s Progress has been laid out. All work relating to 1851 is at the front half of the book, and 1951 in the back half, (although some pages in the latter contain example pieces from each period to compare the results of contemporary technology to 1951). What separates the two halves is a large photograph of a lens, with the accompanying statement—”…the camera has not only fundamentally changed all the reproduction methods, but one of the three major printing processes of the day, photogravure, would not have been possible without it. In 1951, the camera is about to score its final triumph by taking its place in type setting, the invention of which over five centuries ago marked the origin of modern printing as we know it today.”Not sure about the proclamations of ‘its final triumph’, considering digital processes of today.

Also included here is a scan of a 1951 review of Printer’s Progress from The Times Literary Supplement that was tucked in the dust jacket of the copy I bought, (with the price I paid scribbled in the corner)!

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

Tipped-in fold out and die-cut example of print and finishing techniques

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

Times New Roman tip-in fold out type sampler

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951

From: Printer’s Progress 1851–1951| Publisher: Sylvan Press Limited | Charles Rosner | London 1951