occupies one of the arches under a Victorian railway viaduct in Pinchin Street, London, just a few blocks east of the gleaming City of London. A cobbled road runs between the viaduct and the brick-built council flats opposite. With the London skyline hidden by trees and buildings, you could just as easily be in Newcastle or Nottingham, but despite its unremarkable surroundings, Hand & Eye is that rarest of things: a working, commercial letterpress printing shop. I arrived on a mild October day last year to find Nick Gill, H&E’s resident Monotype operator, sitting outside with a cup of tea. He pointed me inside to find proprietor Phil Abel, with whom I had an appointment. I was there to learn about the press’s most unusual — and, by some measures, most important — device.
is in print at last! Well, in a sense. David Březina of Rosetta Type, who specialize in multi-script typography, approached me a little while ago to ask about including some snippets of text from Shady Characters in their first type specimen, and I was happy to agree. The specimen arrived in the post a few days ago, and so here we are:
I visited London this weekend, continuing my niche campaign to explore the world of computer-to-Monotype interfaces. (If none of this makes any sense, take a look at my earlier post about the last working Monotype caster in Scotland.) Having seen Harry McIntosh’s system first-hand in Edinburgh, this time round I prevailed upon Phil Abel and Nick Gill of London’s Hand & Eye Letterpress to show me the system installed at their own workshop, of which much more in a future post.
It is a cliché to say so, but the prim façade of suburbia hides some remarkable secrets. A month or two back I was researching the hyphenation practices of the closing years of the Victorian era, a period when printing was in the midst of a change from manual to automated composition courtesy of new-fangled machines such as the “Monotype” and “Linotype” systems. In doing so I came across the website of the Chepman & Myllar Press of Edinburgh,1 which claimed ownership of the last working Monotype caster in Scotland. I had never seen a Linotype or Monotype system in person before and I couldn’t resist emailing Harry McIntosh, the proprietor, on the off chance that I might be able to inveigle my way into a visit. He agreed, much to my surprise, and so it was a few weeks later that I made my way out to Edinburgh’s leafy western suburbs to meet Mr McIntosh at his home.