History of Stevens, Shanks & Sons Ltd. (London, 1855–1970s)


1852   Chemist/mechanic John R. Johnson1 patents type cast from zinc and alloys; it is later abandoned when discovered that it oxidizes in damp air.

1853   Johnson patents machine for casting type without variation of body.

“This machine has since been worked extensively by the Patent Typefounding Company (limited), 31 Red Lion Square; The University Press, Oxford; the Imprimerie Imperiale of Paris, etc.”

1854   Johnson patents a process for making hard type by substituting tin for lead entirely, or partially, in the ordinary compounds.2


1855   Established. King & Co., John Huffam King and John R. Johnson. King was a successful punch-cutter.3

1857   Sale. The Patent Typefounding Company, J.S. Atkinson and John R. Johnson.4

1859   Johnson and Atkinson patent apparatus for rubbing, dressing and setting up type.5

1862   Johnson and Atkinson demonstrate proprietary machinery for labor-free manufacture of type at the London International Exposition.6

1873   Sale. The Patent Type Foundry, P.M. Shanks (Manager) and Captain H.A. Revell. 31 Red Lion Square, London.7

1874   Catalog. The Patent Type Foundry, P.M. Shanks & Co., Proprietors.8

1881   Revell dies, P.M. Shanks & Co.9

1907   Photograph. P.M. Shanks and Sons.10

1928   P.M. Shanks and Sons, Ltd. approaches Stephenson, Blake & Co. suggesting a merger. After nearly four years of discussion, withdraws offer.11

1933   Merger with R.H. Stevens Limited. Stevens, Shanks & Sons Ltd. Richard Herbert Stevens was the great-grandson of Vincent Figgins I [1766-1844].

1971   Last documented evidence of existence:

“…by the time it moved to Coleman Fields in 1971, [it was] one of the last two surviving old English letter foundries. The foundry’s materials, notably the Figgins punches and matrices, are preserved by the St. Bride Printing Library.”12


  1. Bigmore, E.C. and Wyman C.W.H. Editors: A Bibliography of Printing|With Notes and Illustrations (Volume 2), pages 147-148. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  2. A Chronology of Typefounding|Origin of Existing English Foundries. In The Inland Printer 03:457-458, May 1886.
  3. Bigmore and Wyman, ibid.
  4. Bigmore and Wyman, ibid.
  5. The Inland Printer May 1886, ibid.
  6. The Inland Printer May 1886, ibid.
  7. Gray, N. (1938): XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, page 146. Faber and Faber Limited, London.
  8. Gray, ibid.
  9. Bigmore and Wyman, ibid.
  10. London Notes: Photo caption, “A London Typefoundry|P.M. Shanks & Sons, Red Lion Square.” In The Inland Printer 39:707, August 1907.
  11. Millington, R. (2002): Stephenson Blake|The Last of the Old English Typefounders, page 167. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  12. Moseley, J.; Howes, J.; Roche, N. (1998). Founder’s London A-Z, page 30. The European Friends of the St. Bride’s Printing Library, London.