Printers' Lingo: Coffin, Hell-Box, Work & Turn, and More

These cards with “Exotic and Unusual Printing Terms” were printed two or more decades ago at Bowne & Co., Stationers (which reopened last year) at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City.  Bowne & Co. is New York’s oldest existing business, founded in 1775 by merchant and philanthropist, Robert Bowne. today it introduces visitors to the craft of 19th century “letterprinting.”The website notes:

Advertisements, illustrations, and other materials of the period were researched to recreate the authentic look and feel of a 19th century establishment. See the 19th century letterpresses, buy exquisite cards handprinted in the shop, chat with artist and Bowne printer Robert Warner about his techniques—Bowne & Co. presents visitors with the unique opportunity to step into another era.

Bowne opened in 1975 but had its genesis in the late ’60s when a group of concerned New Yorkers decided to try and save the blocks in the Seaport area before the old buildings were leveled by developers. When the South Street Seaport Museum was formed, founders wanted to reestablish maritime and related crafts in the area, including job printing, since Fulton Street and the blocks near Newspaper Row (surrounding City Hall) had once been New York’s printing district.

Bowne & Co. was almost lost to severe financial cutbacks, but through concerted efforts it is back and flourishing. This handsome set of handprinted cards is further insight into the secret society that printers once inhabited.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Latin, and in my experience French, terms certainly have flavored our language in more ways than we realize. I just discovered the origin of May Day recently: m’aidez = help me. I suppose I’m the last to figure that one out!