Shakespeare Sonnett 111

I decided to tackle some typesetting this year at Cherryburn and so I sorted out the Times New Roman size 12 tray of type. The main problem was that so many letters were in the wrong boxes and gave rise to some interesting typesetting: “Happy Dirthday” was one example and I thought it would start an interesting trend…perhaps..

I have never done any typesetting before but did find a brilliant film put onto youtube and made in 1959 of an apprentice taking the type out of the case and putting in into the stick. From this I learned how to hold it in place with my thumb. I was also given a copy of the book: Introduction to Printing.

So along with other letterpress printers around the world, I answered the call from the Bodlein Library, Oxford to relief print a Shakespeare Sonnet in honour of the 400 anniversary of his death. The type was a bit worn, and looked a bit rough round the edges. As I had just bought my new Press,and could lots of experimenting with it in my studio, I thought a good plan would be to develop the theme of the sonnet. So I engraved a quill pen as the tool of his trade, embossed the word “pity” as its main theme with wooden letters and then inked and hand printed my palm print over the embossing, like “the dyer’s hand”.

Overall I am pleased with the project. Its not the best or most perfect typesetting, but as a way to learn, and to persevere, I would rate it well as a first project. It also meant that I named the press- or at least Chris Daunt did( the master wood engraver):

“Salmon Jam Press”.




The sonnet went through a few layout changes as I tried out different ideas. I had decided on a palm print early on and was going to use my whole hand- but on trying it, saw it was too distracting as a shape, so I modified it just to print across the embossed area, which I did after I had printed it all. I also had the feather at the top, and then moved it to the side. As I only had one chase and it didn’t fit inside- I then printed it after printing  the sonnet. It meant that I had plenty of practice of creating frisket’s for careful positioning of the paper. I also had “Pity ” at the bottom but felt it worked better in the middle. To emboss the word pity I created some paper packing which went over just that part of the chase to increase the pressure. The fiddly bit was inking the two parts of the sonnet in Black and the title at the top and bottom in light red. I covered the top and bottom with sellotape and then inked the sonnet. I then inked the top and bottom with a small roller. Trial and error, it would be wonderful to find a teacher, but I don’t have one so I don’t let it stop me!


Information from the Bodleian Library Web site:

Sonnets 2016

In a cycle of 154 short, 14-line poems first published in 1609, William Shakespeare meditated on themes of love, death, and desire. During 2016, the Bodleian Libraries will be producing and collecting newly printed copies of each of Shakespeare’s sonnets. After an appeal in January 2016, every one the sonnets has now been promised to the Bodleian, from small presses worldwide (listed below), by the deadline of 30 September 2016. Selected submissions from this appeal, forming at least one complete collection of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, will be added to the Bodleian’s permanent collection and the donors will be notified.

The collection of sonnets will be received into the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections at an event on 10 November, 11:00 – 11:30 am, in Blackwell Hall, the Weston Library for Special Collections, Broad Street, Oxford.  All are welcome.

Information: Email


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