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Important news about Monotype Hot Metal

Started by John Cornelisse, July 06, 2022, 01:46:24 PM

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John Cornelisse

Here the last email I got from the Type-archive...

Dear Monotype Hot Metal customer

Please see the attached communications from the Science Museum and The
Type Archive.

The Type Archive is required to wind down its operations, including
Monotype Hot-Metal Ltd, in the very near future. The Science Museum owns
the Monotype collection and has loaned it to The Type Archive since the
1990s. The decision has been made to remove the collection. There have
been considerable efforts to find an alternative solution that would
allow The Type Archive collections to remain together and operational
but no viable solution has been found. There will be further cataloguing
work carried out by the Science Museum before the Monotype collection is
put into storage.

There is still no fixed timetable for the project ahead. Monotype Hot
Metal will aim to fulfil the orders that are currently underway.
Unfortunately it will not be possible to take on any new orders that
require manufacturing, but we will aim to fulfil orders from current
stocks of matrices where possible, with the cut off date being before
Monday 25 July 2022.

Please bear with us if we are slow to respond to any emails. We are a
small group of volunteers with a large and varied set of tasks to

Thank you very much for your support of The Type Archive over the years.
We have thoroughly enjoyed providing the matrix-making service.

Monotype Hot-Metal Ltd

Please note that is no longer a working email address;
all email to Monotype Hot Metal at The Type Archive should be addressed

The Type Archive (TA) has taken the decision to relinquish its current
premises on Hackford Road in Stockwell, South London. The Science
Museum Group (SMG) has a statutory duty to ensure that the Monotype
collection currently held at the TA is maintained in good condition and
SMG will be moving it to its National Collections Centre near Swindon.
SMG has also agreed to house the Stephenson Blake collection, on loan
from the V&A – the interim owner - while options are explored for a
long-term home. The National Heritage Memorial Fund and the
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are providing support
to enable these nationally important collections to be safeguarded.
In 1992, after successfully rescuing the hot-metal plant and stock of the Monotype
Corporation, Susan Shaw founded the Type Museum Trust at 100 Hackford Road in
South London. The Type Museum Trust subsequently rescued and acquired Stephenson
Blake & Co. and Robert DeLittle collections.
For thirty years The Type Museum – later renamed the Type Archive (TA) – has been kept
going by the efforts of its Trustees, a loyal group of volunteers, customers who need its
products, and interested members of the public. The TA has continued to make and
maintain all the machinery by which letterpress printing is enabled, and preserve the skills
that go with it. The TA Trustees are very grateful to all who have made this possible.
Over the last few years, the TA has struggled to achieve the income required to keep going.
Recent worsening economic conditions have made that even more challenging. The
Stockwell premises require significant investment to tackle a backlog of substantial repairs,
improve accessibility, and ensure the safe use and preservation of the collections.
The TA Trustees have been looking at a number of options that would house the
collections in an improved environment. However, none of these options have provided a
viable solution and there is no realistic prospect of sourcing the significant funding required
in the short or medium term to address the repairs, accessibility and the care of the
collection issues.


The TA will surrender the SMG loan of the Monotype Collection, made when the
collection was purchased with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund
(NHMF). The Stephenson Blake collection, which was also purchased with NHMF
funding, will be loaned by the V&A as interim custodian to the SMG. The DeLittle
collection was donated to the TA and conversations regarding its future home are ongoing.
Members of the public can already access a proportion of the Monotype Collection online,
following a major cataloguing and digitisation programme by the SMG, which has created
more than 5,800 records, including new photographs and insights. See Science Museum

Before the collections are moved to the National Collections Centre, the SMG will be
inviting TA volunteers to participate in oral history interviews and a film to supplement the
written and photographic work already done by the TA. These measures will help ensure
some record of typefounding manufacture at the TA is captured and preserved.

Q & A

About the three main collections

The Monotype Collection sits within the Printing and Writing section of the Science
Museum Group Collection and contains more than 2 million individual items, including a
comprehensive archive, around 100 machines, patterns and matrices, and over 4,000
drawers of punches.

The Stephenson Blake Collection will be the responsibility of the Victoria & Albert
Museum (V&A) on an interim basis and consists of the stock, plant and archive of
Stephenson Blake and Co Ltd, Sheffield, the last commercial type foundry in the United
Kingdom. The Stephenson Blake Collection comprises 2.5 million artefacts relating to
typefounding from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, together with a library of type
specimens and business records.

The DeLittle Collection is currently owned by the TA, comprises the collection of
machinery and wood type patterns of the York factory of Robert DeLittle, formerly the
largest manufacturer of wood type in the UK.

How will access to the collections change?

Over three decades the TA has staged open days, conducted tours, hosted school groups,
members of the public have had escorted visits, students and independent researchers from
around the world have had unprecedented study access.
The SMG's cataloguing and digitising part of the Monotype Collection has made certain
artefacts accessible to anyone via the internet. Access to the Monotype Collection for
researchers will in the future be provided at the National Collections Centre, in line with
other access to the Science Museum Group Collection.
Will the skills associated with Monotype be lost?
SMG plan to record the unique skills for manufacturing Monotype punches and matrices
by filming the process and by carrying out oral history interviews with the TA's
experienced volunteers.

Why couldn't the collections have stayed in Stockwell until new
premises were found?

Significant and immediate investment is required to upgrade and maintain the Stockwell
premises and there is no prospect of such funding.

John Cornelisse

Why is this all happening ???

We all should know, that some years ago, the museum owned all the buildings of Monotype in Stockwell.

The buildings were sold to a private bussiness, and hired back. In the past years the value of those buildings raised sky high.

And the present owners have some plans, for instance building a huge building there... money, money...

The old buildings should have been preserved as a precious monument of printing industry. But this we can forget for sure.

Bruce Anderton

All extremely sad...but not altogether surprising. The establishment of The Type Archive was a daunting undertaking and Susan Shaw has to be hailed for taking on the task.

Vast amounts of material were involved when moving the Monotype artefacts from Salfords, the Stephenson Blake collection from Sheffield and DeLittle's material from York, and an even more Herculean effort will now be needed to move all this stuff from Stockwell to its new storage space, and its accessibility will no doubt be difficult when relocated there.

Also the brave relaunch of matrix-making at Stockwell will now sadly cease, so it really does seem that "lead is dead" at last—unless there is some brave soul somewhere in the world willing to make mats for Mono and linecaster aficionados. Step forward now, please!

John Cornelisse

There was a manual made for the whole process of making punches and matrices.

But here the Type-museum is not willing to share this all. All requests to make this public... Is that the way to preserve our culture ?

All those museums try to work only with volunteers... or old craftsmen, but those old printers they will die one day. Those skills... they are part of our culture too.

There are some people paid, the members of the boards, but these people do not learn the old crafts at all.

Why are museums not willing to keep skills alive ? Money ???

Keri Szafir

Yeah, we've been there over and over and over again... Most of the historical buildings (factories, tenements) in my old city were torn down in 2000s/2010s, just because someone needed the land, and then built nothing. Book Art Museum would be another example, fortunately they're still holding up.

The problem is that the ones who have money, have power over where the money goes with no incentive to share and give up part of that power (reinforcing the unequal distribution of wealth and power). With no alternative source of financing, the ones who don't have that wealth are forced to go to those who do, playing an unfair game with no real possibility of quitting or renegotiating the rules... Nah, poly-ticks (poly meaning a lot, and ticks are blood-sucking creatures).
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." --Arthur C. Clarke
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." --John Keats
Founder and owner of Keritech Electronics


And what please is to happen to the printing presses and composing room and its contents in the building just across the yard?   Does anybody know?  I care because I helped to get the Wharfedale going again  (as used in the Beatrix Potter film)    And do the money men understand what ceasing the operations of Monotype Hot Metal Ltd means in countries across the world?   Ethiopia for example?         

Dave Hughes

This was recently posted on the "Letpress" email discussion list:

QuoteSad news about the Type Archive in London. They are leaving their premises in Stockwell, and with nowhere else to go, the collections are reverting to the Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum. In practice, the Monotype material will move to the Science Museum storage at Swindon. The future of Monotype Hot Metal, and their supply of new matrices and Monotype parts is very uncertain. The Stephenson Blake collection will also temporarily go to Swindon, but the future of the Delittle wood type collection is less certain, as is the future of the various printing presses, etc. held by the Archive.

I am not sure how easy it will be to access material at Swindon, where everything is housed in old aircraft hangers, many of which are not in the best of health. And it is not clear whether the Monotype equipment will be held in working order, or just stored. We shall see.

David Bolton
The Alembic Press
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