May 20

Caleb Slower, printer, dedicated his lengthy work, The Printer’s Grammar; or, Introduction to the Art of Printing: containing A Concise History of the Art, with the Improvements in the Practice of Printing, for the Last Fifty Years, to his patron. Lord Stanhope, in a letter dated this day in 1808:

“To the Right Honourable Earl Stanhope, My Lord, The appropriation of the time and talents of a Peer of the Realm to the improvement of the Arts, merits the thanks of a British Public. It is not to any one solitary branch of these arts that our Lordship’s attention has been devoted—your indefatigable and persevering genius has investigated almost every article of human ingenuity which is connected with the welfare of mankind.

“But, my Lord, it is the object of this dedication to notice your Lordship’s improvements in the invaluable Art of Printing. Your merits in this respect are detailed in the subsequent volume; which is both enriched and decorated by the fruits of your diligence. Nor let this circumstance be forgotten by your Lordship, which I mention with peculiar pleasure, that your success has been eminently distinguished in the Art, which possesses the power, and which will most cheerfully employ that power, of conveying down the name of Stanhope to the latest posterity. I have, my Lord, the honour to remain. Your Lordship’s humble Servant, C. STOWER.”

Stower produced an informative handbook which—although following the basic precepts as laid down for manuals of printing by Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises of 1683—nevertheless contains a considerable amount of new material concerning early 19th century practices. The Printer’s Grammar contains, in Chapter XII, “On the Construction of Printing-Presses,” a thirty-eight page account of the standard wooden press of the period, with some twenty-nine woodblock illustrations. From Stower’s description, a modern printer could construct his own press.

The chapter on fine printing was written by John McCreery, who some years later was to write the memorable poem about printing entitled The Press. Among the other then current authorities prevailed upon to write sections of the book, the account of proofreading was written by Joseph Nightingale, a prominent Corrector of the Press of the period. Unquestionably, Caleb Stower’s Grammar belongs on the shelf with other notable printing manuals of the past, which together help to perpetuate the long history of this honorable craft of printing.

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