[UK] Stephenson, Blake

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1. Overview

1818-1996. Sheffield and London. Materials acquired by The Type Museum. See also the revived firm Stephenson, Blake & Co. (2000), which now supplies brass rule.

Some sources say that Stephenson, Blake was formed for the purpose of acquiring the Caslon [IV], Jr foundry (formerly Jackons's). Millington's account makes it clear that this was not the case and that the real story is much more interesting.

From 1805, William Henry Garnet (1784-1854) was punchcutting (and also hand-cutting matrices in larger, "sanspareil," sizes) for the Sheffield firm of Slater & Bower (later Slater & Bacon, later "Bower, Bacon & Bower").

Garnet started on his own in 1818 in partnership with John Stephenson (1790-1864), who was acting in an engeering capacity and James Blake (1785-1832), acting in a financial capacity. The initial firm name was "Blake, Garnet & Co.

The initial parnership expired in 1830 and was renewed under the name Blake & Stephenson. James Blake died very shortly after this, however. His heirs continued as silent partners.

The partnership was renegotiated in 1842 as Stephenson, Blake & Co.

1905. Acquired Fann Street Foundry (which traced its origins back to Thomas Cottrell, apprentice to Caslon I.)

1937. Acquired H. W. Caslon & Co. Ltd, which was the main thread of the Caslon family foundry. (It, in turn, had previously acquired one of the threads of Alexander Wilson (Glasgow Letter Foundry.)

1952. May have acquired Miller & Richard.

Ceased operation as a foundry around 1996. Materials acquired by The Type Museum.

2. Specimens, Catalogs, and Price Lists

The firm of course produced many type specimen books and related items over their long history. I do not have any which are in the public domain, however (or know of digitizations of any available online), so none are reprinted here.

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[1969 Specimen Book]

Stephenson Blake Printing Types. (Sheffield, UK: Stephenson Blake and Company Ltd. / The Caslon Letter Foundry, 1969.) This volume is still in copyright in the UK and US, so it is not reprinted here.

3. Early Pantograph Equipment

Two incidents stand out in the early acquisition of pantographic type-making equipment by Stephenson, Blake:

3.1. Possible Benton-Waldo Pantograph

The only source I know of for information on this is { Millington} He doesn't, however, supply exact dates.

He does mention 1885 (the date of Benton's patent for a punch-engraving machine, both in the US and UK). He says that Benton "originally had offered" the machine to Stephenson, Blake (but whether he means an exclusive offer or a nonexclusive lease is unclear); he does not specifically date this offer. He then says that "six years were to elapse before Stephenson installed a Benton-Waldo machine." (p. 82) If one takes 1885 as the date on which Stephenson, Blake rejected an offer of the machine, this works out to 1891. That date fits well with the known leasing records of the Benton machines. (A page from the Benton, Waldo "day book" reproduced in Theo Rehak's Practical Typecasting indicates that Benton pantograph No. 3 was leased to the Mergenthaler Printing Co. on Feb. 13, 1889. The practice of leasing this machine terminated with the amalgamation of the Benton and Waldo Type Foundry into ATF in 1892, so Stephenson, Blake cannot have acquired it after that date. I do not know how long they retained this machine. See the Notebook on the Benton Vertical Pantograph for Patrices and Punches for a discussion of the chronological issues associated with this machine.

Millington's account also raises the possibility that a pantograph was in the possession of the punchcutter Emile Bertaut. See the Notebook on Bertaut for a discussion of this. Given the very high cost of leasing this machine, I suspect that he did not have one.

4. Bibliography

Millington, Roy. Stephenson Blake: The Last of the Old English Typefounders. New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll Books and The British Library, 2002.

Rehak, Theo. Practical Typecasting. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1993.

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