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Ornamentation For The Nation (Part 1)

Posted by Dulcie Fulton on

Ornaments are somewhat more portable than type; they fit into small boxes, and being so modular, have less demanding typesetting requirements. All you need is some spacing to match. I brought home a micro setup so that I could do a bit of typesetting in odd moments. Here is my ornamentation station, as Mr Flat dubbed it.

Ornaments, spacing, a small galley rack held at an angle on a portable composing stand made for me by Adrian Hillyer at Ross Letterpress, and a few bits of furniture (the larger metal pieces) to hold things in place and act as support. Handily, I also discovered that Cornerstone furniture, which has an I-beam-shaped profile, makes a rather handy ornament selection device, a bit like a scrabble tile stand. Brilliant!


I’m working with a 12pt Arabesque border freshly cast by Matt McKenzie at Taniwha Typefoundry, which has all sorts of combinative potential.

I’m being guided by the Spring 1960 issue of The Monotype Recorder. It contains a marvellous piece called ’The Grammar of Ornament’ exploring the myriad decorative potential of ornaments, and the various ways that patterns can be created, or, as they put it, “an analysis and classification of typographic border designs and their behaviour in use”. Just looking at some of the variation on this photographed page gives you a glimpse of the possibilities.



I’ve become more and more interested in the use of ornament over the past few years, and have got various plans up my sleeve. I’m a longtime admirer of the work of Starshaped Press from across the pond, and she’s encouraging me to strive towards the sort of printing that I really care about. It was Jen at Starshaped that jumped on Mr Flat’s comment about the ornamentation station, and how that was a print waiting to happen. And now I have ideas bubbling away that may well involve the Severn Valley Railway! And another idea for a book, which I hope to share with you soon.


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