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Monday, 29 August 2011

Family History

We received an email about a Smail Family Re-union in Vermont a few weeks ago. They were keen that Robert Smail would come and join them. Regretfully we had to decline on his behalf as he is of course passed such excitements.

Whilst that's probably the most interesting enquiry we've had we do get regular questions about Robert Smail's descendants - short answer there are none. However his brothers children and grand-children did dispersed themselves out across the globe. I've now added a Page to the blog which summarises what I know about the extended Smail family although the family tree needs a bit more work and there are no sources cited. I'll try and up date it - if I succeed I'll post a note here.

The gent in the photograph is Thomas Scott SMAIL, former Baillie of Jedburgh and if any Smail in the USA is related to our Robert then they are his descendants.
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Friday, 19 August 2011

I went up to the Edinburgh Book Festival this afternoon to a talk by Simon Garfield. He recently published a book on type design called “Just my Type (Profile Books, London 2010, ISBN 978-184 668 301 5). The talk was an anecdotal discussion of some type faces and why they were designed.

First up was Comic Sans which elicited groans from many in the audience. He did a partially successful rehabilitation on what is now considered a joke amongst type faces. In fact it was designed to provide a more cuddly image for some basic easy-to-use software produced by Microsoft. It was never used to put words into Microsoft Bob’s mouth but was used in another piece of simplified software and thus unleashed on the world. A perfectly good type-face for comics and jokes it has no place on more serious applications. As such it made a good introduction to subject of type design and why there are over 100,000 typefaces available.

The life and work of Eric Gill came up. He was a sculptor with a very peculiar life-style and the designer of Gill Sans. Simon touched on the suggestion that Gill Sans was less popular now because of Gill’s proclivities. Another odd type designer was Cobden-Sanderson who designed Dove – a type face that disappeared. Cobden-Sanderson fell out with his partner Emery Walker who was supposed to inherit the type-face when the designer died. To prevent this happening Cobden-Sanderson took the complete letter fund and threw it from Hammersmith Bridge.

A thoroughly enjoyable hour although largely concerned with dispay type-faces rather than body type. Maybe this was because if you notice the body type-face in a document something has gone wrong. I’m looking forward to reading the book

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Innerleithen Music Festival

The Innerleithen Music Festival runs from 19 to 21 August and if you have a valid Music Festival Ticket Smail's is offering 2 for 1 on paying admissions ... cheapest admission price free. Moreover on Saturday and Sunday the Printing Works will be opening earlier than usual – that is from 10:00 to 17:00 on Saturday and 11:00 to 17:00 on Sunday.


Delivery has been taken of the boxes for our precious guardbooks... they are much happier now! Thank you to Carronvale Bindery and to our wonderful volunteers for their tireless catalguing and cleaning...

Games Week 2011

Well the weather was kind for most of the week and Smail's did very well selling a new bespoke range of notepads, scrapbooks and fridge magnets. The window won second prize in the window dressing competition. Our theme this year was 25 years of Games Week Windows... celebrating Smail's 25 years in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. We have always been set a high standard by original shop manageress Isobel Brunton, and we are very grateful for her suggestions and loan of photographs this year.

Thanks to Rachel and Ailsa for their hard work putting it in and to Tom for the much appreciated bacon rolls!

There was more success in the Fancy Dress Parade when our Printer's De'ils won first prize... WELL DONE GIRLS!

At the end of June we facilitated some workshops for the Collective Gallery. Working with public artists they have been putting together an exhibition of public art in a private space. The exhibition is being held at Fettes College this month. Students from both Broughton High School and Fettes College spent two days getting inky and printing slogans, comments and thoughts on postcards at the works.
Working with Edwin Pickstone of Glasgow School of Art, these will be reproduced as posters to supplement/promote their Festival Exhibition, The Indirect Exchange of Uncertain Value.

Whilst preparing for workshops we found some very unwelcome visitors living in our type cases... WOODWORM aargghhh! These evil little pests can lie dormant for up to 5 years and proves to us that no matter how diligent you are they can still be lurking. Thankfully the outbreak doesn’t appear to have spread too far though one old portable shelving system, covered in paper and very tasty animal glue appears to have acted as the main woodworm hotel.
Fine days have seen trays of wooden type treated and set out in the yard to dry. Thank you Rachel and Jim who have been treating the problem- staff and volunteers at Smail’s have to be flexible you know! Also the whole paper store is being thoroughly gone through and treated but our woodworm motel is off on holiday to the National Museums of Scotland for a serious blast in their freezer to cure this more serious outbreak.

Wharfedale, Woodworm & Workshops

Well it has been a busy few months...

We continue on the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Donor Book...
The Burns Museum in Alloway, Ayrshire has had an extensive makeover since it was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland and the wonderful new visitor centre is now open to the public. This was only possible because of the donations from many individuals and organisations.
Earlier this year over 50 very heavy packages arrived at the Printing Works. These contained the names for the memorial book of all these wonderful donors. The names were set on a Monotype hot-metal type setter by Harry McIntosh at Speedspools.
The correct leading (inter-line space) is added and then the pages are imposed in the Case-room at Smail’s. The book has to be set, proofed, imposed and printed a section at a time due to limited chases and leading making it a very slow process. The pages are being printed on our Wharfedale press, which decided it wasn’t very happy early in July. Thanks to Tony and Eric they have persuaded it to print again (it is amazing what they can do with spit, string and lots of loving attention!)
The first section is complete and the title pages look beautiful with the burnished gold borders printed on high quality paper. Make-ready for printing is more complicated than you might expect as the position of the printed material had to move progressively so that when the pages are folded together for binding the margins line up properly. Once completed the book will be sent to Carronvale Bindery, where it will be traditionally bound, and then it will be finally be placed in the Museum. Unfortunately it has taken much longer than we originally anticipated... the overwhelming support for the project saw more than twice the number of names we expected. Whilst this is brilliant, the collation etc. took longer and once the timing slipped into our visitor season, the time to print has become severely limited. We will get there and I hope, once complete, people will forgive us the wait.

Friday, 5 August 2011

John Jarrold Printing Museum

Down in Norfolk on holiday I saw an advert for the John Jarrold Printing Museum and of course just had to visit it. The museum is situated in the engineers shop in the Jarrold printworks. In my youth Jarrold were well known for producing a whole range of very colourful guide books for stately homes. As we found out later they were pioneers in the introduction of high quality four colour litho printing.
“Did we know anything about printing?” we were asked when we arrived. As soon as Robert Smail’s was mentioned a lady said that she’d heard Gen speak at the St Bride Library earlier this year and had clearly enjoyed the experience.
One of the volunteers spent much of the two hours we were there showing us the presses and answering questions. He’d visited Smail’s in the past and acted as a straight-man for Gen in the caseroom. As they’re a museum and not a working printshop visitors are free to walk all around the presses. Enough to give any safery officer nightmares as some of them were working - including a 1930s Heidelberg clamshell which dated from before the addition of the safety guard. There was an enviable collection of equipment and space to put much of it on display and no charge for entry.
Amongst the immediately recognisable presses were an Arab and a Columbian. The Arab was up on a (very substantial) shelf but the Columbian was still in use. In fact earlier this year it had been used to at a display in Norwich Cathedral to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. This Columbian still had a frisket in a frame to hold the paper on the tympan and ensure a reproducible lay. Normally the printer would have held this frame in place as the tympan was lowered but to help the volunteers running the demo at the Cathedral a catch had been added. Instead of a Wharfedale there was a Heidelberg cylinder press with automatic paper feed. However their Furnival litho press had a very similar manual paper feed and sticks to remove the printed sheets.
Given Jarrolds history there was a great deal to learnt about lithography and colour separation. One very impressive early lithograph on display was printed in thirteen different colours. The real advance of course was the facility to produce screens for high quality four colour printing quickly and economically - pioneered by John Jarrold.
As it is located in Norwich of the museum it’s not surprising many of the volunteers worked for HMSO. I hope we’ll see some of them at Smail’s in the future. The museum is recommended to any one with an interest in the History of Printing.

Here is piece to accompany 'Hives of Industry' article in the latest Trust Magazine...