I was picking up some of my Grandad's old things the other day, as my grandmother is moving house soon, so thought I'd share what I'd received.
Grandad trained as a signwriter
, probably over 50 years ago, back when pubs and shops had signs painted by a man, rather than printed by a computer. This meant that signwriters had to have an intimate knowledge of letterforms and their construction, and the books from his apprenticeship show this:
- "Anatomy of Lettering", 1946/1959, describing how letters are drawn in a range of styles, in a very practical; fashion.
- "An Approach to Type", 1949/1961, starting with theory, with a slight slant toward letterpress, most of the book is devoted to specimens of most of the classic typefaces.
- "Plain and Ornamental Lettering", 1929, contains 40 spreads, with a plate on one side and a description on the other. They take the reader through a series of lessons, starting with the construction of a basic alphabet and continuing onto advanced topics like guilding letters.
- "Applied Lettering", 1962, is a book of 26 specimens.
- "The Artist at Work", 1951, explains art and stuff, like drawing people, mainly through giving examples of paintings.
Of special note is a Letraset catalogue. From the 60s to 80s, type was often set using "Letraset", a sheet of letters that could be rubbed onto a sheet of paper. This could then be reproduced in a suitable manner. In the 80s Letraset was displaced by phototypesetting and computers and stuff, but any graphic designer from the period will probably have memories of rubbbing those damn letters onto their work.
The catalogue contains not only typefaces (many of whice Letraset now sell digitally), but images, symols and sheets for producing graphs and pictures. It then describes a range of Pantone products (including those
markers) and some more zany products. They actually call the book a "Graphic design handbook", which seems pretty apt, given that I'll keep it on my shelf despite not being able to buy most of their 1986 line.
I also picked up a couple of swatch books, one for vinyl (which is probably out-of-date by now) and one for RAL colours.
Then comes the actual signwriting equipment:
- A set of brass letter stencils, with brush, presumably for stippling
- Four more bushes, of pretty high quality, which I'm told signwriters referred to as their "pencils"
- A neat little wire guage guage
- A massive pair of compasses
- A load of gold leaf, and some silver leaf
- A massive T-square
- A knife of some sort
To wrap it all up is the bag it came in, which Grandad used to carry his stuff around during his national service.