Page 5 - March 2018
P. 5

Figgins were also
                                            described on the box
                                            label as ‘Manufacturers
                                            of... Improved
                                            Portable Regimental
                                            Printing Offices’


                                             century. Figgins senior coined the term
                                             ‘sans-serif’ in 1830 and his ‘Egyptian’
                                             slab-serif designs were the first of their
                                             kind, but this short article has nothing
                                             to do with the typographic output of the
                                             foundry in its various forms—but with a
                                             rather unusual diversion from the business
                                             of type-founding.
                                              As a regular browser of Ebay, the
       early commission for Bible types. Ironical-  online auction site, I have a number of
       ly, his customer had previously dealt with   ‘key-word’ searches set up. These allow
       Caslon but approached Figgins for an iden-  Ebay to automatically alert me to interest-
       tical typeface which the young man cut   ing material as soon as it is offered for
       with precision and great accuracy. It was a   sale. One of my key words is ‘Figgins’ and
       perfect match for the original version.  recently I received an email alert to tell me
         The Figgins foundry prospered and ex-  that something rather unusual had been
       panded, eventually occupying substantial   listed on the site. A 19th century mahogany
       new premises in Ray Street, Farringdon,   box was being offered by a seller, but
       which still stand today, remaining very   this was no ordinary Victorian writing
       much as originally constructed. Vincent   cabinet—it originally contained a very
       Figgins retired in 1836 at the age of 70,   complicated military board game involv-
       leaving the foundry to his two sons, James   ing two opposing forces facing each other
       and Vincent junior. The latter died in 1860,   on the battlefield—and was manufactured
       leaving James as the sole proprietor. Fol-  ‘for Her Majesty’s Government’ by V &
       lowing his death, the business continued   J Figgins, Type Founders, of Ray Street,
       in the hands of a son, also called James   Farringdon, around 1875. Figgins were also
       Figgins. In 1933 the company merged with   described on the box label as ‘Manufactur-
       that of Peter Martin Shanks, to become   ers of... Improved Portable Regimental
       Stevens, Shanks & Sons (the owner Rich-  Printing Offices’.
       ard Stevens was the great grandson of the   The Game of War was not designed for
       Vincent Figgins I).                   entertainment—it was never available
         Much has been written about the faces   in Hamleys toy shop (founded 1760), but
       produced by the Figgins foundry; their   was a serious instructional aid for mili-
       Ionic types established a style for news-  tary tacticians. Two opposing forces were
       papers which extended well into the 20th   represented by red and blue painted type
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