First English textbook on the printing trades

[From D. B. Updike’s Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use (1962 ed.). Images are from PPL’s copy of Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683)]

Joseph Moxon, the first English writer on type-founding, was born in Yorkshire in 1627. He was a maker of mathematical instruments and dabbled in all kinds of mechanics. He himself said that he had never been properly taught the art of type-founding, but had taken it up solely through his interest in the subject–as was the case with many of the celebrated type-cutters before and since. He issued a specimen sheet as early as 1669, showing characters which were not particularly good. In his book on the rules for the formation of letters (“useful for writing masters, painters, carvers, machinists, and for those who were lovers of curiosity,” and dedicated to Sir Christopher Wren), he advises, as did [Geofroy] Tory before him and [Nicolas]Jaugeon after him, that letters should be first designed on a framework of minute squares. In 1667 he began a series of fourteen treatises in monthly numbers on the trades of the smith, joiner, carpenter, etc., and a second series, which comprised twenty-four numbers, was devoted entirely to printing, letter-cutting, and type-casting. This second volume appeared in 1683 and was inscribed to Dr. Fell (among others), benefactor of the Oxford University Press. Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy-Works is the first English book on type-founding, and thus a classic in the literature of printing–though a very dull book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.