The Caxton Press was launched on 10 June 1935 by John Drew and poet/typographer Denis Glover to publish New Zealand literature. Leo Bensemann had a long and fruitful association as a designer and illustrator with Caxton. Most of the decade’s best writers were first published by the company. Caxton Press tells the story on its website:
THE CAXTON CLUB was a colourful group of students, writing enthusiasts and amateur printers which operated a small printing press in the basement of the University Clock Tower, Worcester Street, in the early 1930s. In 1935, renowned New Zealand literary figure Denis Glover, together with a partner, borrowed £100 for a new press and formed The Caxton Press. They set up in an old wooden shop at 129 Victoria St where they stayed for fifteen years.
In 2013, Central Library Peterborough hosted A Caxton Miscellany – a Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition (see our photos). And in a timely echo, The Art of the Dust Jacket – another most excellent Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition at Central Library Peterborough – is running from 30 May to 14 July 2014). No doubt many titles are from the Caxton Press.
Delving into the programme, I note the General regulation number 9 states: Persons in charge of Machinery worked by steam power must use coke. Hmmm. And number 30 consoles childless cows and sheep with the possibility of winning a prize for being fat:
Any Cow or Ewe which is barren shall not be eligible to take a Prize, except in the Fat Stock classes.
There are some Private Prizes on offer too. I quite like the Lyttelton Times Cup for the best sample of Hams and Bacon. I wonder if there was a super fry up after (or before) judging. This would have gone quite nicely with the prize for the best assortment of pickles.
Mr Joseph CHURCHWARD, of Wellington.
For services to typography.
With those letters, a man of letters was recognised, and honoured. Joseph has had an astonishing career. He has handcrafted over 570 original typefaces and this makes him the world’s most prolific typeface designer.
Marianna was fat in those days and it was a fat design … You were plumpy … it was plumpy.
Meena Kadri‘s article Full character set on Churchward, and the book about him by David Bennewith, reveals a character that New Zealand should cherish:
Unabated by less favourable reception to his typographic endeavours, Churchward has pursued unsolicited design work throughout his career. He diligently dispatched these typographic ‘suggestions’ to television networks, political parties and government departments. The book’s inclusion of some of the rejection letters to this approach serve as a testimony of his dedication to a life of letters and letterforms – and amusingly includes a polite reply from the Rugby Union manager in 1998, set in Comic Sans.
Congratulations to Joseph on his well deserved honour.