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Bullen’s Proposition to ATF

 

May I suggest that the American Type Founders’ Company, as successor to such honored names as Ronaldson, Dickinson, Johnson, Conner, Bruce, Dalton, Richard Smith, MacKellar, St. John, Marder and others, has at this point when its activity is so rapidly antiquating the work of its forerunners, the opportunity to do a service graceful to its predecessors and valuable to posterity, by following the example of Mr. Caslon-Smith.

What could be more interesting than a collection of all the portraits of eminent American typefounders, editions of all specimen books, examples of obsolete appliances, hand-casting apparatus, matrices of once notable type-faces, old account books, casting machines, molds, and type in the various stages of manufacture as it was made prior to the introduction of the automatic casting machines, all in glass cases, with suitable explanatory and historical data.

The descendants of former typefounders would, doubtless, be glad to contribute valuable items to such a collection; and in many old established printing-offices books and documents to complete the historical sequence may yet, before it is too late, be found, I, myself, would gladly contribute some books and files of which probably no duplicates are extant.

Imagine with what interest even the next generation would examine authentic copies of the first specimen sheets and specimen books of the first type made by a White on a casting machine, the first type made on the American point system by a Marder, or the first type made to point set and a standard line by a Schraubstadter; and then imagine how that interest will increase and the value of such a collection be enhanced as the generations pass along.

Surely the American Type Founders Company can find a man who would look upon the task of conscientiously creating such a collection as a labor of love—to none other should it be entrusted. Commence the good work quickly, for the grandfatherless iconoclast with his pernicious besom of undiscriminating destruction is at work every day casting these pearls into his swinish ash heap. Is it conceivable that in the old Johnson and Bruce foundries there is not to be found much that would form a nucleus for such a museum?

Consider also the prestige that would accrue to those establishing it; would they not be building a most enduring monument for themselves, when in a time, not too close at hand let us hope, in this hall of typefounding fame there will be added the names of Phinney, Marder, Barth, Nelson, Benton and—(for let it be broad enough to preserve and reward even competitive merit)—the younger Schraubstadters. Such a collection would be a Mecca, attracting the printers of the world to it, worthy of being well housed; worthy indeed of a niche in the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, a gift to the nation.

However, the important duty of preserving historic data and mementoes of the typographic art in all its branches would better be entrusted to an American Typographical Historical Society, with premises, a library and a museum in New York, in charge of a curator possessing the proper knowledge to fit him for forming a collection and preserving data from all sources, combined with an indispensable enthusiasm for the work.

Such a society, supported by the fees of a national membership, under the direction of a committee of veteran leaders, issuing periodic bulletins of its transactions, would attract to itself by bequest or purchase valuable collections which, under present conditions, are dispersed and fall into the hands of people inappreciative of their value.

What have become of the collections of books on typography known to have been collected by George Bruce and his son, David W., Col. Richard M. Hoe, and George P. Gordon, or the “almost unequaled” collection of Franklin portraits left by A.S. Doane? The only authority I know of says invariably “dispersed at his death.” And so the long roll might be indefinitely extended.

The American Type Founders Company would, doubtless, present the collection it might make to such a permanent society, and so would others I have in mind, thus forming a nucleus of a library and museum. Such a society would lend dignity and do honor to our craft and its practitioners.

What man of due reputation and influence will assume the duty and acquire the honor, perhaps never to be forgotten, of originating the American Typographical Historical Society?

—”Quadrat” (Henry L. Bullen)
Discursions of a Retired Printer
The Inland Printer 37:517-518, July 1906