Henry Lewis Bullen


Recent discovery of a “dark chapter” in Bullen’s life (abstracted by Annenberg as “seclusion”) prompted a more detailed biography in Part II.

I. The Short, “Sweet” Story

Henry Lewis Bullen [1857–1938] was an Australian native best remembered by type historians as Librarian/Historian of the American Type Founders’ Company [ATF], 1908–1936 and author [pen-name Quadrat] of Discursions of a Retired Printer.

He was first employed by ATF as Acting Manager of the New York Branch/Advertising Manager in 1893-1898. During these years, he secured safe storage of members’ catalogs and records for a future national printing museum when all production would be centralized in a single location.

In 1898, he was appointed manager of the Buffalo Branch. After two high-profile positions elsewhere, he was unemployed in 1905–1907. Annenberg accounts that he “went into seclusion for many months” (Part II below).

Knowing that an ATF headquarters was planned, he apparently resolved to “follow his heart” and commit his efforts to the museum project. The Inland Printer featured his (pseudonym Quadrat) series of 16 Discursions of a Retired Printer, which realistically amounted to a “job application.”

  • In this context, it is interesting to observe his flattery of typefounders, particularly ATF officers. He attributes all typeface designs and technical advancements to them personally.*

He proposed his idea in the first installment (July 1906), pretending to be unaware that many materials were already available. In March 1907, he advertised for rare books and typographia. When he had acquired a world-class collection of some 300 volumes, he hinted that he was available to manage a worthy repository for it.

Bullen was re-hired by ATF in 1908 (official capacity not recorded in the literature), when the Jersey City headquarters was occupied. He volunteered as curator and conducted these duties during evening hours and weekends. He retrieved the materials in storage, lent his personal trove, and acquired many more artifacts of worldwide printing history.

By the mid-1920s, the collection of 12,000+ objects dating from 1486 was the largest in the US and one of the most prestigious in the world. During the Great Depression, the ATF plant moved to Elizabeth, NJ and the library was closed. In 1934 or 1936 (historians differ), it was transferred to Columbia University, which purchased it in 1941.

Annenberg adds that Bullen apparently retrieved his personal collection: “The Bullens opened a rare book store in New York City after he retired and the library had been shipped off.”

*William E. Loy’s series on Designers and Engravers of Type (The Inland Printer, 1898–1900) and Typefounders and Typefounding in America (The Inland Printer, 1900–1905) records objective, far more accurate information. Indeed, Annenberg’s bibliography credits Loy as “the basis for much of the historical material in Typefounders of America and Their Catalogs.


  1. Anonymous: Henry Lewis Bullen. In The Inland Printer 20:204-205, November 1898.
  2. Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, pages 11-13. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  3. Lohf, K.A. (1986): American Type Founders Company. In Journal of Library History 21:764-767, Fall 1986.
  4. Osborne, R.: Bullen, Henry Lewis (1857-1938). In World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (Edition 3), pages 155-156. American Library Association Editions, 1993.
  5. American Type Founders’ Company: Typographic Library and Museum. In Specimen Book and Catalog, page 14. Jersey City, 1923.

II. A Tale of Woe With the Perfect Ending

Superficial examination of Bullen’s Discursions of a Retired Printer (July 1906–January 1908) portrays him as the very model of smug “pomp-assity”:

  • Information in one installment is frequently contradicted in a later one presented with equal “authoritativeness”—most annoying!
  • Fawning flattery of  ATF members—especially of corporation officers.
  • Worst of all, he refers to type designers including the great William W. Jackson as “workmen” [UGH!] and credits their genius to their employers or clients.

GoudyLeaf-LeftA recently discovered dark chapter in his life compelled THP to “dig deeper.” This new information begins to explain his motives and re-defines him as worthy of empathy and a great deal of respect. This poor man suffered from mental illness so crippling that it literally “landed him in jail.” The heretofore “fuddy-duddy” Mr. Bullen is SO much more human and likeable now!

Bullen Pays His Dues to the Printing Fraternity

  • 1857, 18 September. Born in Australia, where his father had emigrated from New England.
  • 1871–1875. During a four-year printing apprenticeship, begins writing articles for trade journals.
  • 1875 (age 18). Travels to New York, finds little employment opportunity.
  • 1875–1878. Drifts from city to city as a “tramp printer.”


  • Employed by Golding & Company (Boston), manufacturer of printing presses and related equipment. Promoted to sales manager in 1883.
  • Edits and publishes Golding’s newsletter, The Printers’ Review, which leads to articles written for The Inland Printer and friendship with its publisher, Henry O. Shepard.
  • Assigns to Golding patents for two “widgets.” Annenberg quotes him as declaring, “I had a few dollars in the bank.”
  • Osborne writes that Bullen lived in Boston for ten years and frequently visited New York libraries to study printing and type history.


Discursion No. 13 features a full-page portrait of Hamilton and an account of the US wood-type industry.

*Many thanks to Nick Sherman for posting photos of this letter at flickr.com!

First ATF Employment

  • 1893. ATF purchases the Hamilton property. Bullen temporarily becomes ATF’s New York Manager, then assistant manager under Linn B. Benton.
  • 1894, October. Robert W. Nelson is elected ATF General Manager by stockholders.

Bullen convinced Nelson of the historical importance of ATF members’ catalogs and records scattered throughout the US. They agreed that when operations were eventually centralized, these artifacts would become the “nucleus” of a typographic library. He exercised Nelson’s authority to requisition and safely store these precious materials at the temporary ATF headquarters in New York.

  • 1895. Bullen is appointed ATF Advertising Manager, transferred to Philadelphia.
  • 1898. Advertising Department is closed; Bullen is “promoted” from his position at ATF Philadelphia (formerly MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan)—a super-urban corporate hub—to Manager of the relatively remote Buffalo Branch.

Apparently, this career change was unwelcome (Mrs. B. hated the country!)…

Management Positions Elsewhere

  • 1899, Summer. Bullen is hired as manager of the F. Wesel Manufacturing Company (New York), producers of electrotyping and photo-engraving equipment.
  • 1901. Bullen negotiates “an exceptionally remunerative” seven-year Wesel contract: “Since Mr. Bullen assumed management of the company, business has doubled. Mr. Bullen has contacted the habit of invariable success in business building” (footnote No. 5).

Annenberg remarks that “marriage with the Wesel Company was never harmonious.”

Friends in Need

By the 1890s, “everyone who was anyone” in the US printing industry—and abroad—knew, praised and professed to like Bullen. Thanks primarily to the loyalty and courage of these two men, his priceless historical work flourished and is available today:

Herbert M. Bingham•November 17, 1905 (The American Printer 41:418, December 1905)

Bullen “Loses It”

  • 1905. Bullen is recruited as General Manager of the new United Printing Machinery Company [UPM] and released from the Wesel contract (age 48).

According to a Letter to the Editor* submitted by UPM to The American Printer and published in the November 1905 edition, Bullen’s management was promising at first. Soon after, his “devotion to inconsequential details” became a source of anxiety for his new employer: He disregarded or disobeyed suggestions of colleagues and warnings by superiors.

*This letter, dated October 04 by UPM, reports events that occurred on the 9th—five days later! (more below).

In early September, the position of UPM General Manager was abolished and Bulllen’s activities were strictly limited to the sales department. “Serious financial irregularities” were discovered, and “an arrangement was arrived at.” Even so, Bullen “continued along the same course.”

  • Bullen disappears—along with $2,750 of UPM cash and important company records.
  • September 30 (Saturday). After “a long chase,” Bullen is apprehended by Pinkerton detectives, who find “passage to Honolulu in his pocket.”
  • Bullen refuses a meeting with UPM representatives to discuss terms of reparation.
  • Bullen is jailed in New York pending arraignment.

A similar article published the same month in The Printing Art observes, “The charge and admission on his part came as a great shock to the trade, who have known Mr. Bullen favorably for many years.”

Bingham to the Rescue…

“Henry L. Bullen is suffering punishment for an act committed while mentally irresponsible, and you
cannot get any of the leading firms of the allied trades in this country to believe anything else.”

The day after Bullen’s arrest, Bingham immediately took charge of the situation. In the next edition of The American Printer, he refutes the UPM account, exposes its pretense of a passive role in the legal process and relates additional information (slightly edited in terms of point of view and legibility):

“At the time Mr. Bullen left the F. Wesel Manufacturing Company, the United Printing Machinery Company did not exist. The interests that he gathered together were added to an old corporation having but one or two specialties.

“The fact that Mr. Bullen became identified with UPM (it was understood and accepted by the trade in general that it was practically his company), many men of standing in their own lines flocked to him, not only with their services—so that he had the pick of the men in the country—but also those having specialties of acknowledged worth offered him exclusive sale of their products.

“His well-known ability as a hustler, as well as his courteous and sterling character were sufficient vouch for their business being properly cared for. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that Mr. Bullen, having his heart in establishing the business that was afterwards called the United Printing Machinery Company, had overworked himself.”

  • October 1 (Sunday). Bingham learns the name and address of Bullen’s physician, visits him and obtains a signed statement describing his condition as “nerve exhaustion” and “mentally irresponsible.”
  • Bingham calls on (unidentified) UPM president hoping to arrange an out-of-court settlement based on Dr. Clark’s diagnosis.
  • No such luck…
  • October 2. Bullen is arraigned, charged with grand larceny first degree in the amount of $2,750.
  • Still hoping for successful negotiations, examination is waived.
  • UPM had retained a “special attorney” to prosecute Bullen, who apparently is accompanied only by Bingham.
  • Bail is set at $5,000. Bingham was willing to post it; the reason why he did not was a “private matter” between them.
  • October 5. Bullen is “compelled to plead.” On Bingham’s advice,  he enters “Not Guilty.”
  • No progress is made with settlement attempts.
  • October 9. Bullen pleads guilty to the indictment (no trial).
  • Even so, a UPM officer “volunteers” a negative statement about Bullen.
  • The judge confides to Bingham that he regretted the requirement to sentence Bullen (and other remarks that he declines to publish).
  • Sentence is reduced to two years’ incarceration instead of the usual ten.

Discursions Written in Jail?


  • No available information suggests that Bullen did not serve the prescribed two-year sentence.
  • Indeed, his guilty plea leaves little doubt that he did so.

During this period, Bullen “got his act together,” decided what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and mapped a course to make it happen. He methodically executed a strategy to redeem his reputation and realize his dream of managing a type library/museum hosted by ATF.

What an amazing, brave man! Now we know why he assumed a pen-name and “buttered up” ATF big-shots: He was fighting for his life!


  • Discursion No. 12 (July 1907) is devoted almost entirely to Nelson and his role in rescuing ATF from early financial distress, converting branches to corporate “team members” and adroitly managing  “anti-trust” competitors.
  • Note that Bullen’s prison release date looms three months after the publication date.

Uh-Oh—Bullen Loses It Again…

The last two Discursions exemplify the (obsessive-compulsive?)  “devotion to inconsequential details” bewailed by his former employer:

No. 15 (October 1907). Assuming that Bullen served this jail sentence, he may have been released by the time this article was published. It begins by recommending historic or contemporary monographs and periodicals (especially The Inland Printer).

  • No. 16 (January 1908), the only Discursion published after his presumed prison sentence was served, is a barely coherent “rant”—eight pages of point-by-point ad hominem attacks on Gress and his book.
  • Unlike other Discursions, it does not end with “to be continued.” Did Bullen intend future installments?
  • If so, The Inland Printer (thankfully!) rejected them and saved him from “hanging himself with his own rope.”

*This book was released by The Oswald Publishing Co. (New York), which also published The American Printer, a rival of The Inland Printer.  Evidence of this competition is clear in the above exchange—the Oswald firm may have suspected that “Quadrat,” who by then had intimated numerous hints of his identity, was actually Bullen.

By October 1909, “Quadrat’s” true identity was public knowledge. An item in The Inland Printer recalls that “The most severe book criticism we have ever read was written by Mr. Bullen.”

Happily Ever After!

Thanks to Nelson’s ever-faithful friendship, Bullen was re-hired by ATF in 1908 (age 51). His official capacity is not recorded in the literature; historians agree that his curation duties were performed without pay during evenings and weekends—for more than 25 years.

Osborne writes that in 1923, Nelson arranged a $40,000 two-year stipend for Bullen to acquire more rare books in Europe; and when he returned in 1925, funds for a new museum/library building.

He adds that Nelson’s death the following year spelled “the beginning of the end” for the collection, which could not be sustained during the Great Depression. Bullen remained in the Jersey City building when the plant “downsized” in Elizabeth, NJ. Over the years, he wrote many more historically precious articles for The Inland Printer and other periodicals.

Little information about Bullen’s family life is available. Annenberg quotes an unidentified item implying descendants: “This year, let me create an enduring piece of printing … which my children will cherish lovingly in memory of me.”

In his obituary of Bullen, Horgan reports that his English-born multilingual wife, Grace (very handy when traveling abroad!), cared for him when he was ill from not taking care of himself. Was she the same “Mrs. B” mentioned by Hamilton 49 years earlier? She was surely the woman  Annenberg references: “The Bullens opened a rare book store in New York after he retired and the library had been shipped off.”

Today,  Bullen might be called a “hyper-active micro-manager control freak” unable to delegate responsibility nor to accept help with duties he regarded as within his purview. How very fortunate that he found the perfect niche where his “idiosyncrasies” were valued as essential: The infinite challenge of building, organizing (he developed a unique classification system) and maintaining a collection of the very things he loved most.

According to his wishes, his tombstone reads: “Henry Lewis Bullen, Printer.” Rest in Peace, Good Sir!

GoudyLeaf-LeftRelated Pages

Forum Topic, Discursions of a Retired Printer.
Forum Topic, Henry Lewis Bullen.
Complete Discursion Series


  1. Bullen, H.L. [pen-name Quadrat]: Discursions of a Retired Printer. A series of 16 articles published by The Inland Printer, July 1906-January 1908.
  2. Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, pages 11-13. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  3. Shields, D.: J.E. Hamilton. In Wood Type Research (May 19, 2013).
  4. Anonymous: Henry Lewis Bullen. In The Inland Printer 20:204-205, November 1898.
  5. Trade Notes. In The Inland Printer 28:266, November 1901 (submitted by Bullen himself?).
  6. Business Notes. In The Printing Art 06:177, November 1905.
  7. The United Printing Machine Company: Statement in Regard to Mr. Bullen. In The American Printer 41:302, November 1905.
  8. Bingham, H.W.: Another Statement in Regard to Mr. Bullen. In The American Printer 41:418, December 1905.
  9. Osborne, R.: Bullen, Henry Lewis (1857-1938). In World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (Edition 3), pages 155-156. American Library Association Editions, 1993.
  10. Horgan, S.H.: The Old Maestro Leaves. In The Inland Printer 101:33-36, May 1938.
  11. Saxe, S.O.: A Brief History of Golding & Co. In American Printing History 6:12–19, 1981.