June 23

Non amo te, Sabidi,
nec possum dicere quare,
Hoc tantum possum dicere,
non amo te.

Or rather freely paraphrased from the Epigrams of Martial, as it appeared in the widely read Tom Brown’s Schooldays:

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this alone I know full well,
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.

The object of this apparent lack of affection on the part of Tom Brown was his teacher, John Fell, Bishop of Oxford, who was born June 23, 1625. One of the great names in the history of Oxford University and its Press, Doctor Fell no doubt crossed up schoolboy Brown in the performance of his Latin and has hence been immortalized. But even without Master Tom, the good Bishop would have earned his place in the heavens for his typographic contributions.

Shortly after becoming Dean of Christ Church, John Fell became a Delegate to Oxford University Press in 1662. He acquired for the Press a great font of type which bears his name; he aided in the acquisition of the paper mill at Wolvercote, where the paper for the Press is still made, and he initiated the printing of bibles and prayer books, another activity in progress to the present time.

Shortly before his tenure as a Delegate, the Press had gone through a difficult period, resulting in the statute from the Archbishop of Canterbury that an architypographus be appointed from the ranks of the scholars to oversee the work of the Press. Dr. Fell formed a committee to take charge of the full management of the printing office, and by efficient organization left his stamp upon every department of the Press.

Among the details in which Fell interested himself was the question of orthography. He set up a system of rules for spelling in which such words as editour, colour, humour, etc., were divested of their letter “u.” He left out the ending “e” in calme, some, have, presse, etc. Being some three centuries ahead of his time, this practice brought round criticism upon his head from readers, booksellers, and printers, naturally enough.

It is to the credit of Bishop Fell that Oxford University Press owns the oldest type punches and matrices surviving in England. These types were originally the personal property of Dr. Fell and were bequeathed by him to the University. In his travels to the Continent, Fell purchased the types and brought them home to Oxford. The letters have been described as being Dutch in origin, probably designed by Christoffel van Dijk. This is undoubtedly true in some of the romans, but Stanley Morison, in his paper on the Fell types, attributes certain sizes of italic to the hand of the great French punch-cutter, Robert Granjon. In the cutting of italic type, Granjon had no peer, and the 10-, 11-, and 12-point sizes at Oxford are definitely considered to be Granjon letters.

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