The Curwen Press of Plaistow, East London was a printing press known in the twentieth century for printing high-quality advertising material, although it began as a printer of religious publications. This 1936 advertisement for a special issue of a medical journal is very much of its time – minimal, with consistent use of two colours, and particular use of printed borders – the Curwen Press commissioned many custom borders for its own use around this time, as did Monotype. It’s reproduced in a 1938 article on the company in the magazine Art & Industry, digitised by IADDB. The article describes this as the cover of a folder and says that all the rules and decorations are “standard” materials.
The main heading face is Orplid, an attractively quirky shadowed set of sans-serif caps that was very popular in graphic design of the period. For the body text, most is in Walbaum, which had recently been revived by Monotype (although the Curwen Press had become known for using handset type from Berthold before that), and with a few lines of Baskerville italic. The lining figures in the largest lines in Walbaum are rather small, and I wonder if the compositor deliberately put in figures from a smaller size of font – looking at Monotype specimens their Walbaum revival seems to always have had lining figures that reach fully to cap height. The press continued to print publicity material in a similar style after the war, and specimens from 1938 and 1952 highlight Orplid as one of their main display faces.
Harold Curwen, then the company’s director, had studied with Johnston and drew his own Johnston/Gill-ish sans-serif. The Curwen Press anthology/history Songs and Words is a real pleasure to read if you can get hold of it, and contains many illustrations of similar jobbing work done by the company.
I would say that I don’t actually know that this is Monotype’s Walbaum revival, although it certainly seems likely. According to this article their original handset Walbaum type came from Berthold but then they used Monotype’s when it became available.
One might perhaps be able to tell if Berthold’s Walbaum release wasn’t sold with lining figures, but I haven’t been able to get access to a Berthold specimen from the right period.
Thanks, I see. I’ve reverted the typeface credit to our generic Walbaum entry.
Contributed by Stephen Coles
Photo(s) by “Philipp Messner” on Flickr.