Decorated Characters from Punch
Last week I spent an afternoon of research at the St. Bride Library in London. The library holds the largest collection of type specimens in the world and is based on Fleet Street, which was historically home of the British national newspapers and their in-house printing works.
I was looking for a variety of specimens but specifically decorated capitals originating from London, and more precisely, to look at the Kelmscott Chaucer, printed by William Morris, (which contains in excess of 400 single-colour illuminated initials) and the decorated alphabets of typefounder, John Louis Pouchée.
More pictures from my visit to follow, but first I wanted to share some Victorian initials drawn for Punch magazine in the 19th Century.
Punch, magazine of humour and satire, ran from 1841-2002. A very British institution renowned internationally for its wit and irreverence, it introduced the term ’ Cartoon ’ as we know it today and published the works of great comic writers and poets. Its political and social cartoons swayed governments, capturing life in detail from the 19th and 20th centuries. The finest cartoonists appeared in Punch—legends like Tenniel, Du Maurier, Shepard, Pont, Illingworth, Fougasse, R.S. Sherriffs, Trog and Searle.
I was shown the book Fanciful Victorian Initials, Edited by Carol Belanger Grafton, containing over 1000 initials, each drawn to accompany a particular article. Almost all feature a character and all are now out of copyright. There are some very elaborate designs. I’ve mocked up my favourite above with some dummy text to show it in context.