by Adrian on 11/08/2010

I didn’t realize the significance of either the way the trademark stamps were made, or the typefaces that were used, until I gave a lecture at the Type Directors Club of New York in January 2010.

The lecture was a sell out, with standing room only of  type afficionados and experts who were astounded at the collection. It seems that the way the stamps are made, by hammering strips of copper into a wooden base block is pretty much unique to the fabric trade. That way of construction came about because the stamps needed to be both detailed and durable so could not be carved wood. Artists who hade made blocks for fabric printing had used small metal pins and metal strips, so it was an obvious progression to use that technique to create a whole stamp design such as in the small one below.

Merchants could commission their own word stamps in many languages, or use individual letters to create whatever they needed. Either way, the stamp making trade was huge and developed its own typefaces. 

The last stampmaker told me that it was routine to make stamps of common words such as “cotton”, “yards” or “bleached” in many different languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Hindu, etc

Foreign merchants working in Manchester must have introduced a typographic variety to the design process, and customers from around the world wanted to see fonts that were either recognizable to them, or unique to the merchant. Those are good reasons why unusual typefaces may have been developed solely for use as textile trademarks and have never been seen together unless by those involved in the merchant trade.

I have picked out just a small sample of typography from the collection, some with the dates they were made, which I hope you enjoy. It would be great to see these fonts be somehow used again.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathalie Birkenfeld August 14, 2010 at 1:19 AM

Great article and site! Your piece reminded me of the stamp vendors at the Portabella Road Market in London…


patrick November 16, 2010 at 7:33 PM

here’s a bleachers block i picked up a while back.

Uploaded with ImageShack.us


Adrian January 13, 2011 at 3:46 AM

There doesn’t seem to be any image link


Simon Lawrence April 11, 2013 at 10:03 PM

I have a collection of about 1500-1800 single letter alphabet blocks which came from a Bolton mill, and space is getting a bit limited these days; before I put them into auction I wonder if you know any potential buyer? Thanks, Simon (England)


admin October 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM

Hi Simon

I only just received this comment
Did you sell the letters?


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