Book publication


The Rise and Fall of the Printers’ International Specimen Exchange, by Matthew McLennan Young, published in August 2012 by Oak Knoll Press.

Click on the inset details on the dust jacket front cover image below to see 12 specimens from among the 82 full-page images reproduced in the book. Among the dozen shown here are examples by H. Berthold of Berlin, Ann Eccles & Son of London, the Tokyo Tsukiji Typefoundry, and Theodore Low De Vinne of New York. Find them and eight more!

Springfield Reid Earhart TokyoTsukiji Lutz Werner Kohler Kelly Berthold Eccles DeVinne Baxter

Explanation of specimen 58 a/b: “Spektral-Analyse” (discovered post-publication)


From the British Printer, Vol. I, No. 3, May-June, 1888, p. 14:

“In the current volume of the Specimen Exchange there is, however, a still more wonderful example of economical colour printing. It represents a complete table of spectral analysis—i.e., the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, with the numerous shades made by mixing them together—and was printed in two workings only, at the well-known Bibliographic Institute at Leipzig. It was done on a common cylinder letterpress machine in iris printing, as in Germany is called the manner of colour work, where, like in the rainbow, one colour melts into the neighbouring one nearly imperceptibly and without any marked border line. This result is generally arrived at by reducing the to-and-fro motion of the wavers to a very narrow distance, but in the case of our specimen, that limitation had also to be a most precise one, as the effect to be obtained was not a pictorial, but a scientific one; every line in the colour blocks had to show off in its particular and distinct colour or shade. As an instance, the line D—about the fourth of a pica in width — in the narrow colour block Natrium on the specimen must be yellow, whilst the line A in Calcium, the next block but one, is of orange hue, etc. In consequence of this, the sideway motion of the wavers had to be shortened, and this was most effectually done by a very simple device, regulating the motion of distributing cylinder and wavers from 3 to 40 millimeters. But such an arrangement would not have proved sufficient in itself to keep colours put closely side by side from mixing entirely, or to arrive at a perfectly irisated effect. Cutting out the vibrator in narrow rings, separated by grooves of the width of from 4 to 5 millimeters, was therefore resorted to, and the final effect is shown in the specimen, which has been done in two workings only, the irisated colours forming one working, and the black one the other. Such lessening the number of workings is certainly of great business importance, when the numbers to be printed are so high as in the case of Meyer’s Conversations-Lexikon (from which it is taken), the circulation of its fourth edition (16 stout volumes) reaching now nearly one hundred thousand copies.”

“Old Style” vs. “Artistic” printing

In the book, the following examples from Volume II (1881) are shown in black and white. Here they are presented in color. Unwin Brothers provided an object lesson of the difference between then-popular “Old Style” and emerging “Artistic” schools of printing by submitting two circulars for a sewing thread manufacturer. The first, printed in letterpress, was described by the editors as “a perfect imitation of the old-style of the early part of the last century.” The second, a lithograph, was described as “a first-class specimen of delicate art printing, artistically designed.”

Conrad Lutz specimen color issue

The color of the Conrad Lutz specimen in Volume V turned out to be a big problem. I couldn’t photograph it at the University of Delaware due to the tight binding and page curvature, and the one at the Library of Congress had been excised from their copy of Volume V. The University of Michigan sent the image used in the book, which has a dark blue background. Then I acquired a copy of Vol. V, only to discover that the Lutz specimen had a matte dark green-blue or teal background – quite different from the image received from UMI and admittedly very difficult to capture, as it appears to change tone depending on the light and viewing angle. I had foolishly neglected to take a reference snapshot at the University of Delaware, but after checking with other owners of the volume and with UMI to verify that Lutz didn’t print his run on two or more different color grounds, I concluded that the dark teal was the correct (and only) color. Unfortunately, it was too late to make the change at the printer, so that correction will have to wait for a possible second printing. In the mean time, here are web-quality images of this remarkable specimen as shown in my book and one closer to the actual color.

as shown in book:

corrected to approximate color of actual specimen: