April 3

The typefoundries of the United States were in the fresh bloom of youth in 1818. They had enjoyed almost unlimited prosperity as there were too few founders for the number of printers who needed type. These conditions were changing, however, and the founders were becoming competitive. In an “Advertisement” bearing this date, appearing in the first American printing manual, Printers’ Guide by C.S. Van Winkle, the brothers David and George Bruce, stereotypers and printers of New York, who had added a foundry to their facilities, took a few cuts at their fellow Scotsman, the Philadelphia typefounder, James Ronaldson.

“The Art of Printing,” wrote the Bruce brothers, “has confessedly received a great improvement within the last twenty years, both in Europe and this country. It was the consequence of a refinement, peculiar to this age, which requires, in every production of human industry, a degree of excellence seldom attempted before, and rarely reached. The specimens of the European typefounders exhibit a striking improvement in the form of their types, which contributed much to the elegance of modern printing; but, in this country, the want of active competition prevented any material improvement in the form and finish of types until within a very few years; and even the attempts at improvement in the foundry which principally supplied the United States, previous to 1812, were mostly so unfortunate as to have been since condemned by the proprietors of that respectable establishment. In this state of things, however well the press-work of our books might be executed, the inelegant appearance of the types destroyed all hope of rivalling the beautiful productions of the European presses.

“Having been long and extensively engaged in the printing business, and suffering from the evil which we have stated, we undertook in 1814 to establish a new foundry, with an expectation of producing better types than were then in use; an undertaking so difficult to accomplish, that the design must in some degree be attributed to our want of accurate information. It was however begun and persevered in, and is now an extensive establishment, furnishing almost every description of types, which might be looked for in an old foundry, and some not furnished by any other. We not only produce better types than were formerly made, but have excited others to improvement; and we have every reason to be satisfied with the encouragement which we have received in our business.”

Leave a Reply