Page 4 - December 2016
P. 4

|  Britannia Waves the Rules |                    |  Bob Richardson (9718)  |
             rass rule is pretty dull stu . It’s a   metals which are non-corrosive’, at  rst
             letterpress necessity for printing   they simply replaced the zinc rules used
       Blines, but it doesn’t have the charm   to divide newspaper columns but they
       and attractive desirability of those  orid   were quickly adopted by all sections of the
       Victorian typefaces, designed to look like   printing trade within a very short space of
       rustic branches or Chinamen forming   time.
       acrobatic pyramids. It’s just another of     An early 19th century trade journal gave
       those workaday components, like quads   details of Parkes’ innovation:
       or quoins, required to print run-of-the-    “After long study and perseverance,
       mill jobs, unless you have the inventive   Mr Parkes invented new and complicated
       imagination of Ebenezer Parkes.       machinery for the manufacture of Brass
         In 1828 a stroll along Fetter Lane in   Rule, so perfectly accurate that if a
       London would have taken you past the   thousand pieces were placed together,
       shop window of Mr Parkes’ emporium at   each piece being the 72nd part of an inch
       number 142, and there you would have   in thickness, the whole of the  ne hair
       seen a very impressive example of brass   lines would appear in print.”
       rule in its most inventive form. Ebenezer     This sounds like a primitive bar code,
       was rather proud of his trade, and claimed   but it clearly illustrated the accuracy of
       to have invented brass rule in 1816,   Ebenezer’s new product. Every strip was
       making this year, 2016, the bicentenary of   identical in height and width, producing
       that essential piece of printing kit. Prior to    ne, clear lines just one point in thickness
       Parkes’ creation, rules were printed from   (although it would be another 80 or so
       strips of wood, zinc or even iron, but the   years before the point system was adopted
       strong alkalis (often a powerful solution   by the British trade). So proud was Parkes
       of potash) used to clean the type had a   of his engineering achievements that he
       corrosive and damaging e ect on these   constructed a large broadside to show
       materials. Wood would warp and rot, and   his product in the best possible light.
       the most commonly used metals would   The work took seven years to complete
       oxidise. Iron in particular was prone to   and was composed from 4,500 separate
       rust, so the invention of brass rule was   pieces of brass rule, set out in the style of
       a technological leap forward. Made,   the portico, steps and Corinthian pillars,
       according to Parkes, from ‘a mixture of   forming the entrance to a grand mansion


















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