April 22

At a point in the North Atlantic Ocean approximately Latitude 53° N., and Longitude 32° W., a battleship of the United States Atlantic Fleet was headed this day in 1942 on a zig-zag course. By this route the Navigator hopefully believed the ship would eventually reach port within a half day of the Estimated Time of Arrival which he had handed to the Captain when the vessel had cleared the sea-buoy off Reykjavik, Iceland.

The U.S.S. New York had but a few days previously celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday, and was not at that point of her career a ship which could reasonably be expected to do battle with say, the Tirpitz, or even the Scharnhorst. Her presence in a home-bound convoy, however, was for just such an eventuality. Her sailors, in conversation with seamen of other ships and other navies, proudly referred to how the “Old Queen” would perform in such an encounter, but among themselves they were dubious of the result of a meeting between “this old pig-iron bastard”and the Nazi battlewagons.

At this particular moment, though, no matter how anxiously the lookouts might scan the horizon or the Officer of the Deck might quiz the radar operators, there were some thirteen sailors aboard who were interested in but one objective—one which sorely tried their technical resources. Lord Nelson or John Paul Jones might have quizzically raised their fighting nautical eyebrows at this activity, because it had absolutely no relationship to naval science. The thirteen sailors were, in fact, printers, and three decks down into the warship, they were engaged in a task which couldn’t possibly have any bearing upon the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic. They were printing, folding into signatures, and stitching a twelve-page booklet measuring 3-¹⁵/₁₆ inches by 5-³/₁₆ inches, entitled History of the U.S.S. New York.

This historic first-edition work is possibly unknown to bibliophiles, even to those few specialists who collect high-seas imprints. That is just as well, as it represents typography at a low ebb. It was set in 8-point solid Century Expanded, with a nonpareil between paragraphs, and in 10-point Century Schoolbook italic for Dedication and Colophon. The typographic piéce de resistance, discussed at some length by the sailor-typos, was the use of Typo Upright Shaded for the title on the cover. While the circumstances were perhaps unique, so was the printing office itself. In size, about fifteen by twenty-four feet, it contained: 1 Model 8 Linotype machine, an 8×10 Chandler & Price platen press, 1 Chandler & Price Craftsman Automatic platen press, 1 power cutter (which served an auxiliary purpose as a hide-out behind which a drunk could be slept off), 2 3×5 feet imposing surfaces, 2 twenty-four case make-up banks, plus paper storage bins, a clutter of miscellaneous items such as hell boxes, Linotype magazine rack, furniture racks, galley racks, and lead and slug racks. In and around were cots for five of the printers, including the present writer, in addition to their storage lockers.

The U.S.S. New York continued her course westward through the long North Atlantic swells, with the lookouts on watch continuing their vigil of seeking out the Tirpitz. However, the enemy was not encountered, allowing this naval imprint to be completed and distributed to the ship’s company.

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