This week, The Partners attended a letterpress workshop at St Bride’s Foundation, courtesy of Justin Hobson and the team at Fenner Paper.

A hidden gem in the heart of the City – the Foundation houses an extensive library on typography and graphic design, including Eric Gill’s collection of sketches and samples, and some of the oldest examples of books, pamphlets and ephemera in the country.

Our visit compressed 600 years or so of printed type history into a few hours led by Mick Clayton, the workshop’s volunteer technician and a man who spent his life in print on Fleet Street during its heyday. A crash course in the history of the printing press and the ins-and-outs of life hand-setting the daily paper was followed by introductions to printing metal and wooden type. The workshop itself is a sweet shop for designers, with drawers, trays and shelves of typefaces to choose from, and we were let loose to create typographic masterpieces or find our inner Gutenberg.

As well as type, there was monoprinting in the form of lino cutting to try, and we each recreated a section of one of Stanley Donwood’s London Flood prints, which were reassembled and printed at the end of the evening.

We quickly found ourselves in a pre-InDesign world of inky fingers, Heidelbergs and flong, where composing a sentence of type took our not so nimble fingers long minutes rather than seconds and we had to learn to read upside down and back-to-front. However, with the help of Mick, with Bob Richardson and Andrew Long, we ended the evening with our creations and a taste for more hands-on design.

Huge thanks to Justin and Fenner Paper for the experience!

St Bride’s Foundation offers tours, workshops and talks, and relies on donations to continue to provide access to its invaluable typography collections – many of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Find out more here

*Other considered titles for this article included ‘An impressive evening at St Brides’, ‘Just our type of night’, ‘Justified team building’ and ‘Press Gang’.

by Marc Spicer, Senior Designer