September 9

William Bulmer, English printer, died upon this day in 1830 in his seventy-fourth year. His name would appear prominently upon any list compiled of the great English printers of all periods, and he fully deserves this recognition. After serving a Newcastle apprenticeship, Bulmer journeyed to London, where he was employed by John Bell, one of the more careful printers of the period. His career really began, however, with a chance introduction to the King’s bookseller, George Nicol, who was at that time in the midst of plans to publish a monumental edition of the works of William Shakespeare.

Another important factor in Bulmer’s eventual fame in the annals of English printing was Nicol’s selection—prior to meeting Bulmer—of the Birmingham punch-cutter, William Martin, to produce the type for this venture. It is the use of this type (which incidentally, in its modern re-cutting, bears the name of Bulmer), that helped to bring to Bulmer the admiration of typographic critics ever since. Martin, a brother of Robert Martin, who was Baskerville’s apprentice, produced a letter which while bearing a resemblance to the type of Baskerville, also favors the designs of Giambattista Bodoni, which were at that time greatly admired. The result is a type which, in the words of one writer, “is unquestionably one of the very best ever evolved, both for intrinsic beauty and for its unequalled combination of marked individuality with general applicability.”

With Nicol’s help, Bulmer set up the Shakspeare Press. In 1794 he completed the first volume of Shakespeare, immediately establishing his reputation as a fine printer. In 1795 he printed the Poems of Goldsmith and Parnell, using Martin’s types and the wood engravings of his boyhood friend, Thomas Bewick. This volume is considered to be one of the finest productions of the Shakspeare Press and represents possibly the finest printing of the Bewick engravings. In its introductory pages the book carries a notice from its printer indicating his desire to produce first-rate printing:

“To raise the Art of Printing in this country from the neglected state in which it had long been suffered to continue, and to remove the opprobrium which had but too justly been attached to the late productions of the English press, much has been done within the last few years; and the warm emulation which has discovered itself amongst the Printers of the present day, as well in the remote parts of the Kingdom as in the metropolis, has been rightly patronized by the public in general. The present volume, in addition to the SHAKSPEARE, the MILTON, and many other valuable works of elegance, which already have been given to the world, through the medium of the Shakspeare Press, are particularly meant to combine the various beauties of PRINTING, TYPE-FOUND-ING, ENGRAVING, and PAPER-MAKING; as well with a view to ascertain the near approach to perfection which those arts have attained in this country, as to invite a fair competition with the best Typographical Productions of other nations.”

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