The origins of the Workshop

AK & The Typography Workshop

Alan Kitching established original The Typography Workshop at Clerkenwell in London in 1989. The workshop was dedicated exclusively to letterpress printing. It used both metal & wood block types only. There was never any use of any plates or photo engraved blocks, but occasionally printed from lino-cuts & hand cut card. Kelvyn Smith joined in January 1991 as Alan’s first assistant & worked at The Typography Workshop for 5 years. All of the equipment described here has now been acquired for use in The New Typography Workshop.
The original printing press & types were bought in the mid 80s by Omnific design studio of which Alan was a partner with Derek Birdsall. The press was then housed in the studio which was in Highbury Islington in North London. The equipment was purchased from the Stephenson & Blake & Co foundry in Sheffield, England (closed down c.1985). S&B was the oldest type foundry in Britain since 1841: but its heritage reaches back to Wynkyn de Worde in 1500, who was the successor to England’s first printer, William Caxton; who began printing in the precincts of Westminster Abbey by the Thames in London.
At this time the workshop was equipped with the S&B ‘Western’ A1 size proofing press with powered inking. It subsequently acquired a smaller Vandercook press. It also has a small gallery press for proofing and proof-reading  & for a short time a very large Double Crown Albion press which was eventually donated to the Royal College of Art: where Alan had been running his own letterpress workshops for a number of years.
The types which were initially bought are some of the classic English faces; Thorne Shaded, Marina Script, Modern 20, Caslon Old Face & a very early small decorative English type called Union Pearl; cast only in one size of 22pt. It carried types from Monotype such as Eric Gill’s Joanna, Walbaum & Poliphilus. It also had a selection of different size founts of Futura in various weights.
In addition, the workshop also has a large collection of wood block letter founts. These are the usual English poster types with sizes ranging from 4 line up to 50 line in many type styles from extra condensed to bold expanded. Most of the these founts are in capitals only, a few of the smaller sizes are in upper & lower-case. It also has some sizes of Rudolph Koch’s Kabel & Berthold Wolpe’s Albertus.


Metal Type

Stephenson Blake founders type fom 8 – 72pt:
Caslon Old Face, Caslon Old Face Italic, Chisel, Engraver’s Shaded, Fry’s Ornamented, Futura Light, Futura Medium, Futura Demi-Bold, Futura Bold, Grotesque 6, Marina & Palace Script, Modern 20, Modern 20 Italic, Thorne Shaded, Union Pearl.
Monotype 6 – 72pt:
Albertus, Blado Italic, Bodoni, Bodoni Bold,  Clarendon, Clarendon Bold, Gill Sans, Gill Sans Bold, Joanna, Joanna Italic, Pegasus, Poliphilus, Spartan, Univers, Walbaum, Walbaum Italic.
Wood Letter
A wide selection of Grotesques & Eygptions – from Narrow to Expanded, plus Albertus, some Roman & Italics & a few ‘exotics’ ranging from 4 line to 50 line.
The Presses
Stephenson Blake – Model R234
Sheet size: 594 x 841 mm (A1)
Vandercook No.4
Sheet size: 365 x 460 mm
Farley Galley Proofing Press
Sheet size: 300 x 500 mm
Small Platen Hand-Press
Sheet size: 210 x 148 mm (A5)
(Provenance: Professor Herbert Spencer)