A. Clark trade card
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Have we got any references to so-called “Leicester Style”? I would be interested to know more, and a brief web search turns up nothing.
It is a subcategory of artistic printing that emerged in Britain in the late 1880s, evolving from what the Printers’ International Specimen Exchange had begun. The Leicester free style is characterized mainly by asymmetry of layout, and named after its place of origin.
Leicester printing firm Raithby & Lawrence (later dba Raithby, Lawrence & Co. in London) was “noted for its printing of the widely disseminated and influential periodical, The British Printer. Through the efforts and exacting standards of its foreman and chief typographic designer (a new profession for the time) George William Jones, then Robert Grayson, the firm developed the so-called Leicester Free Style which was England’s answer to the artistic printing movement.” (Dictionary of 19th-Century Journalism, via Mullen Books).
In The Handy Book of Artistic Printing (2009), Doug Close comments:
The Leicester Free style, or grouped style, a later incarnation of British artistic printing, garnered praise from critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Its sparer compositions and artfully staggered lines of text, set in fewer typefaces, revealed a greater sensitivity to page layout.
According to Graham S. Hudson in The Victorian Printer (1996),
Chief characteristics of the style were carefully balanced, asymmetrical layout and considered use of space. Indeed ‘white space’ – non-printed areas within the design – largely took the place of the elaborately contrived ornamentation of the 1880s, much use being made of printing rule for these effects.
In the Encyclopedia of Ephemera (2000), Maurice Rickards writes:
A further billhead style, emerging in the 1890s and also displayed in the Exchange in its later years, was known as the ‘Leicester Free Style’. In this style, which was popularized by the de Montfort Press, Leicester, the essential symmetry of conventional letterpress printing (and even of the revolutionary ‘art style’) was abandoned. Headings, sub-titles, decorative vignettes, and fancy-work were now thrown ruthlessly off-centre – a gambit that relieved the jobbing printer of some of the rigours of the ‘art style’ symmetry while retaining its revolutionary flavour.
Graham Hudson devotes a whole chapter to “The Leicester free style” in his book The Design & Printing of Ephemera in Britain & America 1720–1920, with many illustrations. He mentions that “it was German printers who would coin the name by which it was to be most widely known, der ungezwungen[e] Leicester stil – the Leicester free style.”
There is also an article titled “The Leicester free style of display printing” by Frederick C. Avis in the Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1964.