Rob Roy Kelly research













Wood type has been sadly neglected as a subject and greatly underrated in terms of its importance to the history of the American graphics industry and in the evolution of display type.

This can be attributed partially to the short lapse of time between the period of its decline in use and now.

Secondly, printers of that day were not overly concerned with historical matters nor interested in the materials with which they worked, a fact borne out in an article published in 1891 that states, “One of the essential needs of the modern printing office is a supply of wood type, large or small, according to the class of work turned out. There is probably no article used by printers the manufacture of which is so little understood.”


Thirdly, the very nature of a piece printed with wood type did not lend itself to any degree of permanency. Therefore, book typographers as well as job printers failed to acknowledge or even observe wood type’s place in typographical history.

Without doubt, typographical forms of nineteenth century America conjure more associations to that perjod than do other manifestations issued in those years. With their multitude of inventive and imaginative forms and designs, they were expressive of their makers and of the people and spirit of the period.

They were used prolifically, announcing ship sailings and auctions, serving for land notices, wanted posters, theatre handbills. Even today their power to evoke an image is evident, and there are few circuses, theatres, or television Westerns that fail to capitalize on Victorian type for promotion purposes or as a means to conclusively establish the period.