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Two Birmingham Printers

Early and Fine Printing Collection,
Early Printing:Collection and Parish Libraries
Fine Printing:Presses and Illustrated and Miniature Books and Two Birmingham Printers

Bill Pardoe

F. E. (Bill) Pardoe 1915 - 2002

F.E. (Bill) Pardoe was born in Birmingham and lived there all his life apart from six months studying for his degree at the University of Dijon. There he acquired his serious interest in fine wine and good food. He was an early member of the Buckland Club, an experimental dining club in Birmingham, for which he printed the menus, now collectors' items. Bill taught in Birmingham schools until he was appointed to the English Department of Birmingham College of Commerce in 1957.


There he set up a practical course for students of bibliography with two colleagues, using an old Cropper press and some type from a local printer. Together they started publishing, calling themselves the Morenardo Press (Morbey, Fox and Pardoe) As his colleagues were also called Frank, he then became Bill. Later they obtained an Albion press and some type from Stephenson Blake. Bill's first press at home was an Adana Quarto Platen, but he eventually bought the Albion and used it from then on.

River Usk cover

Eric Gee and Christopher Skelton were both working in Birmingham at that time. Through them Bill joined the Society of Private Printers, and his own work became more widely known. Examples of his work were selected for the major exhibition of private press printing at the Swiss Cottage Library in 1976 to celebrate Caxton's quincentenary.

Perverse Proverbs

Bill Pardoe made a major contribution to the history of printing with his biography John Baskerville of Birmingham, published in 1975. He also helped design the memorial to Baskerville outside Baskerville House, based on the six punches used for the title of Baskerville's Virgil.

Bill Pardoe became involved in the work of Dame Hildelith Cumming of the Stanbrook Abbey Private Press. He regularly reviewed her fine press books in the Birmingham Post from 1958 and corresponded with her. In consequence Bill adopted the Stanbrook Abbey typeface, Spectrum, designed by Jan van Krimpen.

Bill Pardoe was also a practising journalist. He regularly reviewed crime fiction for the Birmingham Post and chaired the committee of the Crime Writers Association which awards the Golden Dagger for the best crime novel of the year. He also wrote two books for journalists on plain English. He was Chairman of the book committee of the Birmingham Library 1950-71, chaired a committee on local radio for the West Midlands, and was Vice-Chairman of the Birmingham Bibliographical Society. In 1993 he received an Honorary Degree from the University of Birmingham for a life-time's service to the City.

David Wishart

David Wishart 1928-2003

David Wishart was born in 1928, graduated from the University of St. Andrews and studied for his PhD at Princeton. He became a lecturer in statistics and mathematics at the University of Birmingham Mathematics Department in 1958, served as Chair of the School of Mathematics from 1973 to 1977 and in 1979 and was a member of the University Senate. He retired from the University in 1988, which gave him more time for the Hayloft Press.

David was a man of wide-ranging interests, a great music, art and book-lover, contributing to the Birmingham Chamber Music Society, the Consumer Group and Birmingham Community Health Council. As Editor of the Royal Statistical Society journal he became interested in printing, and bought a small Adana press and type for 0. He became a dedicated member of Birmingham Bibliographical Society and the Wynkyn de Worde Society, and shared his enthusiasm for fine printed books generously.

Wynkyn de Worde

Not content with collecting prints, engravings, and fine books, David Wishart became one of the best small press printers in the country. He set up the Hayloft Press in the loft over the garage of the Wishart's Victorian house. Here he built up a collection of seven hand printing machines, mainly Victorian, and over a hundred fonts, type ornaments and pictorial wood blocks, saving many fonts from melting down as printing firms moved from traditional typesetting to computer technology. Some of the types he salvaged were over a century old, and it is hoped that they will now find a safe home in the new Museum of Typography in London. He became fascinated by exotic type fonts and the printing of non-European languages. and the collection includes Egyptian hieroglyphic, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Old Church Slavonic and, of course, mathematical types.

Morris cover

Each page of a hand-printed edition is first set by hand then hand-printed, one or two pages at a time, a laborious labour of love. John Randle describes David Wishart's 'masterpieces of intricate setting, calculated to the nearest point and a terrifying sight for the printer who had to transfer them from David's galley brought over to Whittington, and lock them up in the forme Copies are then usually hand-sewn and hand-bound. At the Hayloft Press David printed small editions of 100-300 copies, sometimes using interesting marbled paper for the covers, and incorporating either wood block illustrations from his collection or specially commissioned work. Subjects ranged from a bicentennial reprinting of Tom Paine's essay The Last Crisis, reflecting David's politics, A Ring of Leaves, poems by Phoebe Hesketh illustrated by Alan Freer, I am Ozymandis, to celebrate the bi-centenary of Shelley in 1992 and London Observed to celebrate the centenary of Jacob Burkhardt's death in 1997. He also designed The Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman with illustrations by Claude Lovat Fraser.

David Wishart printed charming ephemera for the Wynkyn de Worde Society, to celebrate occasions such as Christmas, meetings of the Bibliographical Society, or just for the pleasure of recording some witty saying or some intriguing wood block illustration which he had found.

Hieroglyphic Types

Anthony Van Dyck

Sir Alan Gardiner was not satisfied with the hieroglyphic types available to him in 1923 when he completed his Egyptian Grammar, and commissioned a new font based on hieroglyphs of the eighteenth dynasty, c. 1500BC. The types were created by F.J. Hall, Printer at Oxford University Press, and R.P. Bannerman, typefounder, to drawings by two distinguished Egyptologists, Nina and Norman de Garis Davies.

Three fonts of hieroglyphic type were in use in the late 20th century; a French fount commissioned by the Imprimerie Nationale, 1846, the font designed by Richard Lepsius, a great German Egyptologist, and the font cast for Sir Alan Gardiner.

The font commissioned by Sir Alan was used by O.U.P. to print the Egyptian Grammar and Sir Alan's other works. He eventually gave the matrices to O.U.P. Several fonts of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs were sold and it was two fonts of the Cambridge University Press set which David Wishart purchased in 1988, with a font of the Lepsius hieroglyphs. The history of the fonts is detailed in Matrix Vol 10.

Hieroglyphic type

David Wishart took two hours to set his first short sentence of hieroglyph, mainly because characters of different size need to be grouped together in one forme. Typesetting of hieroglyphs is now done by computer.

To view printing by Bill Pardoe, David Wishart, or other material in the collections of Fine Printing, please contact the Library of Birmingham.