Page 5 - December 2016
P. 5

(see illustration on the left). The  rst
                                             copies were printed on white satin, and
                                             examples were sent to the Royal Society
                                             of Arts, which proclaimed it “one of the
                                              nest art works of the time” (according
                                             to Parkes, so perhaps a pinch of salt
                                             should be taken with that statement).
                                             Many thousands of paper copies were
                                             also produced and distributed throughout
                                             the UK and abroad, to promote sales of
                                             Parkes’ new brass rule. The forme was
                                             used regularly for over a year, and was
                                              nally displayed in the window of Parkes’
                                             brass rule works, ‘a little worse for wear’.
                                             The piece included a few typographic
                                             elements, including the phrase “We
                                             attempt di  cult things, but without
                                             di  culty there is no merit.”
                                               Few copies of the Parkes broadside have
                                             survived, but one is kept in a large folder
                                             at the St Bride Library. It has su ered
                                             from frequent handling, but is currently
                                             undergoing conservation. The image on
                                             this page shows how it looked earlier this
                                             year, before conservation work was carried
                                             out.
                                               Ebenezer Parkes also supplied prepared
                                             boxwood for engravers, but the success
                                             of his brass rule and joinery operations
                                             compelled him to give up the boxwood
                                             trade. Changes to the formulation of the
                                             brass alloy produced harder rules, and
                                             eventually Parkes’ Spring Brass Rule was
                                             introduced, which led to a short-lived
                                              xation among compositors in the late
                                             nineteenth century for brass rule pictures.
                                             Ingenious exponents of this dubious art
                                             tried to out-do each other, and the fashion
                                             for ‘Artistic’ printing spurred them on to
                                             greater heights from the mid-1860s until
                                             the end of the century. In the last two
                                             decades of the nineteenth century few
                                             issues of The British Printer were without
                                             an example or two of this time-consuming
                                             but inventive pastime.
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