Tag Archives: printing history

More manicule mania!

IMG_9467As cataloguing of our early printed books continues, I have been discovering more and more manicules in the margins. These wonderful little pointy hands, so useful for early readers to draw attention to important text, have been turning up in books from the 1470s right up to the 1700s, in ever-more varied forms.


IMG_9443Our copy of Gilbert Burnet’s An exposition of the Thirty-nine articles of the Church of England, published in 1700, possibly holds the record for the most manicules added to a single book, with hundreds of pointy fingers dotted around the margins by an eager reader!


Hopefully there are many more manicules still waiting to be discovered in the rest of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection. I will be keeping my (pointy) fingers crossed!


Relief printing: an architectural perspective

Special Collections and Archives has recently acquired a 19th century iron hand printing press and several sets of type (further announcements coming later in the autumn – watch this space)! With the collection barely unpacked, Jonathan formeHarker, an Architecture postgraduate, was keen to make use of it. As his designs are inspired by the concept of traditional relief printing methods, he utilised a number of our formes (arrangements of type, from which a page may be printed) to support his final design review examination. Many thanks to Jonathan for providing this guest blog post:

“As an Architecture Masters student interested in the valuing of traditional graphic and print culture, I worked with the staff at Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University to show the relationship of my design process to their recently acquired printing press and formes.

archi_displayThe title of my architecture design thesis was A ProtoType Foundry. The project took a historic look at large scale exhibition events known as world’s fairs or EXPOs. These types of events are given a strong graphic identity and are now perhaps more fondly referenced by the work of a typeface foundry or poster campaign rather than the neglected architectural showpieces.

The tectonic concept for the external façade of my building design was a pre-casting of concrete panels against arrangements of metal formwork pieces. The finished aesthetic gave a relieved set of universal graphic guidelines for setting out typography. This process draws a relationship to the arrangement of furnitureletterpress blocks in a setting out tray as the negative of what would then be inked and pressed against cartridge paper or vellum. In the proposed architectural instance the arranged sheet cut metal pieces would be layered up within a larger tray and have concrete poured against to cast the inverse mould.

At my final design review, Special Collections and Archives kindly allowed me to display two formes from the collection as an example of a moveable block composition and tray. This traditional process informed the origin of the concept for an architectural application.

I would like to extend my thanks to Special Collections and Archives for their help with allowing me to include this valuable resource in my studies.”

– Jonathan Harker, Postgraduate student in the Welsh School of Architecture

Printers and bookbinders visit Special Collections and Archives

soc_binders2Special Collections and Archives recently hosted visits of the British Printing Society (South Wales branch) and the Society of Bookbinders (South West England branch). Both groups were particularly interested in our large collection of privately printed books, by presses such as Kelmscott, Eragny, Cuala, Ashendene, Essex House and Doves.


soc_printersBoth groups were delighted to have the opportunity to examine the collections.  It was fascinating to discuss these examples with members of the present-day book trade, all of whom were highly trained experts in their field.