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The History of Industries and Toolmaking in United Kingdom

  Joseph Moxon - A History of the Old English Letter Foundries by Talbot B. Reed, 1887 1 of 4  

Mechanick Exercises: Smithing, Joinery, etc. - Download Here

Joseph Moxon, whose distinction it is to have been the first practical English writer on the mechanics of typography, was born at Wakefield, in Yorkshire, on August 8, 1627, and appears to have been brought up as a mathematical instrument maker, in which profession he showed himself highly proficient.  In the year 1659, being either already settled in the metropolis, or having come thither for the purpose, he added to his stated business that of a typefounder, in which, according to Mores, he continued till 1683.

It is difficult to fix the precise condition of the laws relating to typefounders in the last year of the Commonwealth.  The Ordinances of 1647 and 1649, which reimposed the main provisions of the Star Chamber Decree of 1637, remained nominally in force till the Restoration, so that we are to suppose that Moxon, unless he practiced his art surreptitiously or sub rosa, was formally installed into a vacancy in the body of authorized founders on execution of the usual bond to the Company of Stationers.

If, as seems probable, he commenced operations with little or no previous experience, and with no plant ready to his hand, the progress of the new foundry must at first have been very slow, particularly as he appears to have devoted much of his time to his other scientific pursuits, to which in 1665 he added that of hydrographer to the king.  

To this office a considerable salary was attached.  In the same year, Mores informs us, he lived at the sign of the "Atlas" on Ludgate Hill, near Fleet Bridge, but the Fire of London in 1666 caused him to quit that abode for another of the same sign in Warwick Lane.  From Warwick Lane, where he was living in 1668, he appears to have removed to Westminster, to the sign of the "Atlas" in Russell Street, whence in 1669 was issued his famous specimen of types, the first complete typefounders' specimen known in England.

In a passage in the Mechanick Exercises, published several years later, Moxon speaks of the art of letter-cutting as a mystery, "kept so conceal'd among the Artificers of it, that I cannot learn anyone hath taught it any other, but every one that has used it, Learnt it of his own Genuine Inclination."  

If this be the writer's own experience - though his subsequent intimate acquaintance with the minutest details of the art almost disproves it - his specimen must be taken as the production of a self-taught typographer after ten years' intermittent practice.  

Viewed in this light, the exceedingly poor performance which the sheet presents can to some extent be accounted for.  It must also be borne in mind that Moxon's theoretical and mathematical studies of the proportions and form of letters had not yet been begun, or, at least, elaborated; so that in no sense is his Specimen to be assumed to be a reduction into practice of those theories.

Moxon's proficiency in the processes of the art does not appear as yet to have attained the pitch of justifying his matrices to any regularity of line, or of casting his types square in body. 

Some lines of the specimen curve and wave so as to make it a marvel how others kept their places in the forme, and the press-work and ink are so bad that at a first glance the beholder is tempted to mistake the larger letters with their sunken faces for open instead of solid-faced Romans. 

The sheet was apparently put forward not solely as a specimen of types.  The matter of each paragraph is an advertisement of Moxon's business as a mathematical instrument maker.  

In Great Canon Remain he calls attention to the "Globes Celestial and Terrestrial of all sizes made by Joseph Moxon, Hydrographer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, 1669."

In Double Pica Remain he announces his Spheres; in Great Primer "a Large Map of the World"; in Pica Italica, "a book called a Tutor to Astronomic and Geographic," and so on.   


Joseph Moxon’s 'The Art of Joinery'

The Art of Joinery” was the first book published by Lost Art Press in 2008. It was out of print and unavailable for several years until we released this revised edition in the fall of 2013. Here is what the revised edition contains:

1. The lightly edited text of Joseph Moxon’s landmark work on joinery – the first English-language text on the topic. We took Moxon’s 17th-century verbiage and removed the long “s” characters, broke up his run-on sentences and added a few words here and there (in brackets) to help the modern reader digest the text more easily.

2. I have added modern commentary on every one of Moxon’s sections on tools and techniques. I have amplified the text with photos that demonstrate many of the processes that Moxon discusses, such as processing stock by hand and cutting mortise-and-tenon joints. And I have explained the historical context behind many of Moxon’s explanations, sometimes supporting his conclusions; sometimes taking issue with them. In this revised edition, I have expanded some of my commentary and revised some assessments based on new information.

3. Each section is published with the relevant illustrations embedded in the text. In the original edition, the plates were separate from the text. We have put them together to make it easier for you to read.

4. We have published the original plates in their entirety so you can see how the tools were arranged on the page.

5. We have included the complete and unedited original text from the 17th century. This text includes all the antiquated characters, inconsistent spellings, free-form italics and capital letters and run-on sentences. We have painstakingly reset the entire text in a 17th-century style typeface called “Fell.”

6. And we have added an appendix of select plates from André Félibien’s “Des principes de l'architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture…“ (1676), which pre-dated Moxon’s work and is probably the source of many of Moxon’s drawings.

“The Art of Joinery, Revised Edition” is 168 pages and – like all Lost Art Press publications – printed and bound in the United States. The book is hardbound and covered with a dark-blue cloth. The interior of the book is notched and casebound for durability. The book has natural-colored endsheets and the book’s pages feature a rough exterior edge (sometimes called a "deckle" edge), like early books.

Christopher Schwarz

To one or two of the founts, such as the Great Canon, the Pica and the Brevier, he adds a line of accents or signs.  It would appear, from the imprint already quoted, that Moxon combined printing with typefounding at Westminster.  If so, he probably confined his press to the printing of specimens and advertisements of his own goods, as we cannot ascertain that any of his other works were printed by himself, or that he printed anything for the public.

About 1670 he removed back to the sign of the Atlas, in Ludgate Hill.  Rowe Mores considers it probable that for some time he resided in Holland, during which time he acquired a certain proficiency in the Dutch language.  During the same period it is probable that he may have come across, and been struck by specimens of the beautifully proportioned Elzevir letters of Christoffel Van Dijk, which he admitted were the inspiration of his Regula Trium Ordinum.

Of this curious work, which was published in 1676, it will suffice to say here, it is a work intended not so much for the letter-cutter as for the sign-board and inscription painter.  Taking the Van Dijk letters as his models, the writer attempts to demonstrate that each letter is a combination of geometrical figures, bearing regular proportions one to another; and by sub-division of the square of each letter into forty-two equal parts, he professes to be able to erect in any other square, similarly sub-divided, the same letter in precise proportion and harmony.

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