The World of Wood Type

Borders, ornaments, manicules and fonts, fonts, fonts!



Wood type is good type! I hope you enjoy this collection of fonts and letterpress printing.

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What do you collect?

I collect wood type. Until around 100 years ago, every small printer used letterpress, and had a selection of metal type for small faces, and wood type for larger faces.

Then new technologies arrived, and within 50 years, much of the rich heritage in history and design had been lost - thrown out, burned, and otherwise discarded.

How long have you been collecting?

I began collecting around 1990. In Australia, this was just in time to catch the last few printers throwing any remnants of wood type they had left.

Nobody loved wood type. In fact, nobody had even heard of wood type, except printers. This pre-dated the internet, and readily available information.

As far as I knew at the time, I was the only person in Australia, maybe the world, trying to save what wood type I could find. Thankfully, this turned out to be quite incorrect!

The arrival of the internet changed my collecting world, as I started to find people and resources I had never known existed.


Like any absorbing interest, it is engaging in many different ways and levels.

I have always loved fonts, so typography was the first attraction. But add industrial design - how the blocks were cut, and the nineteenth century technological developments that enabled them to be made in their millions.

And history. The history of printing through the nineteenth and twentieth century is inseparably intertwined with commercial and social history - some of the illustration blocks are charming as they advertise pre-TV, pre-radio attractions. Other blocks show racial sterotyping that was thought humorous at the time, and is simply unacceptable today. The font names and styles - eg "Egyptian" reflect the interests of the day.

There an element of romance and imagination - were these actual physical blocks I am holding in my hand used to print an exciting "Wanted" poster, or (more likely), a prosaic upcoming sale? If only the blocks could talk!

And they can be used today as they were always intended to be used - for printing. This is not a dead technology. Indeed, for many design students letterpress printing is a radical new discovery!

And lastly, there is the community and the friends I have made over the years. It is a relatively small community - but warm and accepting. My wood type interests have led to friends, travels and unexpected adventures.

Collection Details

Oct 2, 2013

Wood Type

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