Work in Progress

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May 2019

A Show of Hands – Bath Spa University

Tim Jollands (visiting research fellow at Bath Spa University) send out an invitation in early 2019 for letterpress printers to generate work inspired by the manicule (or more commonly titled as a: printer’s fist) – the deadline for submissions was the 31st May 2019.

I had been experimenting with lino relief pressings, so this became an ideal opportunity to employ a new process for me, coupled with my more regular letterpress compositions.

I elected to set a quote from Robin Kinross (Fellow readers notes, on multiple language, 1994) in Perpetua and Franklin Gothic over a detail taken from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Rome).


The exhibition opens on the 27th September – 2019 at Bath Spa University (Corsham Court) and thereafter travels to the University of York.

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February 2019

The Drugstore Gallery – Axbridge

I am currently in the process of developing a brand identity, signage system and marketing assets for The Drugstore Gallery (Axbridge, Somerset). The gallery is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Axbridge, an apothecary store dating back almost four centuries. It showcases both contemporary and traditional artworks as well as affording visitors the opportunity to book the space as meeting or even holiday accommodation.

Initial discussions centered around the need to develop a logotype which would echo the galleries heritage, but to site it, clearly with a contemporary resonance.

After a number of initial digital renditions (which did not totally satisfy the brief) I elected to retrieve some of the ‘hand cut’ grotesque type from my collection. I selected a very unusual typeface, which was then re-drawn and digitalised, enabling me to make printing blocks for further print testing.


Implementation of the brand: edition / visitor and order books, button badges, rubber stamp, exhibition labels and promo cards.


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July 2018

Optical Detailing

At Studio B serendipity is a highly regarded resource and it is often embraced and used as a primer in the generation of new letterpress printed works.

Whilst re-ordering the shelves during (yet another) ‘tidy up’ session I came across a large number of typography related ‘hand outs’. These were used when I lectured at London College of Printing (now London College of Communication). The documents relate to the styling and application of type. On closer inspection I felt they would be useful as an ideal starting point for a new printing project.


Work in progress – the first proof: Optical Detailing – still some way to go before its completed to the correct standard. A little more time to address fine tuning, compositional consideration and this could become page one in a new set of studio instructional posters. But first some kerning by hand.

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January 2018

The Elusive Oscillating Roller

After almost five years of searching for an oscillating roller, one has finally been found and the refurbishment of our Soldan Proof Press can be completed. Soldan presses were used in large numbers in colleges across the UK to train printing apprentices in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Our press was purchased from Somerset College of Arts and Technology (SCAT) in 2012 who had owned it for over fifty years.

The press was being used as a storage table and had a number of original elements missing. These sized presses are becoming quite rare so the opportunity to purchase one could not be missed. After a little struggle and navigating a pallet truck it was bought back to the studio and off we went printing the largest possible posters we could fit on it.

I originally used the press by inking everything by hand as both the oscillating and inking rollers were missing and the electric drive motor did not work. Once fitted with the elusive rollers and replacement motor we were off. It’s a great press, very flexible and accurate and has become the centrepiece of our studio.

As arts curriculums have evolved and analogue processes make way for digital, large numbers of these presses have been sold off or in the worst incidences given up for scrap! They take up lots of space and need furniture, leading and of course type – so, often colleges elect to adopt etching or screen printing as their primary print process – very few can afford the space to house letterpress / etching / screen etc. SCAT currently have a large Western press and a Farley so they still offer letterpress printing to their students – sadly they are one of a decreasing number of educational establishments that still do within the UK.


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December 2017

The Soldan Proof Press – Owners Club

Further updates on the Soldan Owners Club. Our press (serial number – 121: 121) is one of only three known Soldan Proof Presses still being used in the UK. The other two owners are:

  • Justin Knopp – Typoretum – Colchester (serial number – 121: 132)
  • Walden Press – East London (serial number – not confirmed)

Rod Shaw – Beyond Letterpress, has refurbished two over the past five years (121: 125 and 121: 122) both presses have found new owners, being sold and exported to printers in Europe.

There is little documentation specifically detailing the Soldan ‘Proof Press’. Publications I have found to-date mainly describe the ‘Proofmaster’ or ‘Lightning’ printing presses. The Precision Aids for Letterpress Printers publication (1958) describes two presses available from Soldans:

  • Proofmaster No.1      4 ft. x 6 ft. 9 in.    18.5 x 24 in.   £760
  • Proofmaster No. 20   5 ft. x 7 ft. 6 in.    23 x 31 in.    £895

Soldans Ltd – 5-11 Theobald’s Road – London WC1

If you have a Soldan Proof Press or know of anyone else who may have one please get in contact – telephone: 01823 401 302 / email:

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© Carl Middleton – 2020

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