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Robert James DeLittle

by David Shields. Average Reading Time: almost 3 minutes.

On January 2, 2014 Jim DeLittle passed away peacefully at his home in Fulford just south of York, England after a long illness. He was 78.

Mr DeLittle, grandson of the founder, was the last owner and operator of the last wood type manufacturer in England. The DeLittle company was founded in 1888 by Robert Duncan DeLittle as the R D DeLittle “Eboracum” Letter Factory. The wood type manufacturer was known for their unique production of “White-Letter” they named “Eboracum” after the Roman name for DeLittle’s native city of York.

The “White-Letter” was a reverse letter often referred to as a “Streamer” in the United States. Claire Bolton of the Alembic Press wrote that, while the idea of the reversed letter was not new…“this type of letter always gave problems on the joins where there was a tendency for white lines between the charters to show. RDD had invented a way of joining the letters within the white downstrokes of each character which minimized the problem and almost eliminated it altogether.”1

“Eboracum” improved white-letter type, R.D. DeLittle, “Emboracum” Wood Letter Factory, 1892,  St Bride Library (StB 19416)

“Eboracum” improved white-letter type, R.D. DeLittle, “Emboracum” Wood Letter Factory, 1892,
St Bride Library (StB 19416)

 

Claire Bolton wrote the two definitive texts on the company DeLittle, 1888–1988: the first years in a century of wood letter manufacture, 1888–1895 (Oxford: Alembic Press, 1988) and the earlier DeLittle: an English wood-letter manufacturer; including a brief history of the development of wood-type. (Winchester: Alembic Press, 1981).

“The Eboracum Letter Factory’s first premises were on the site of the former Presto supermarket in Railway Street (now George Hudson Street)…”. At the turn of the century the company moved to a newly built factory on Vine Street, off Bishopthorpe Road at which time the name was changed from The Eboracum Letter Factory to Robert DeLittle Wood Printers Type Manufacturer.2 Starting in 1940, DeLittle also cut wood type for Stephenson Blake, the leading type foundry in the United Kingdom. DeLittle ceased operation in 1998. The Type Museum in London now houses the archives and machinery of the firm.

The Yorkshire Post reports that there will be a memorial service for Mr DeLittle at St Paul’s Church, Heslington, on February 12, 2014 at 1:30pm, and notes that the family requests no flowers and no mourning attire.3

Jim De Little at Vine St factory. (date unknown)

Jim DeLittle at the Vine Street factory, the DeLittle company’s home from late 1899 to 1988. Date of the photo unknown. www.yorkpress.co.uk

 

Jim De Little at the pantograph.

Jim De Little at the company’s router-pantograph. Date of the photo unknown.
www.yorkpress.co.uk

 

Robert Duncan De Little, founder of wood type manufactory, holding his grandson, Robert James  (Jim), in 1935. Jim’s father, Robert Geoffrey, is on the left

Robert Duncan DeLittle, founder of the wood type manufactory, holding his grandson, Robert James (Jim). Jim’s father, Robert Geoffrey, on the left, holding his pipe in 1935.
www.yorkpress.co.uk

 

DeLittle’s Wood Type Specimens, 1966, The Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology (CARY LIBRARY:FLAT 105492)

DeLittle’s Wood Type Specimens, 1966, The Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology (Cary Library:Flat 105492)

 

Special thanks to Dafi Kühne for first word of Mr DeLittle’s passing and the initial links to the official obituaries.

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  1. Bolton, Claire. DeLittle, 1888–1988: the first years in a century of wood letter manufacture, 1888–1895. Oxford: Alembic Press, 1988, p 10. /
  2. ‘Last of the Old Type.’ The York Press 27 Aug. 2000. /
  3. Obituaries for Mr De Little can be found at both the The Yorkshire Post and at The York Press. Enquiries to J G Fielder & Son Funeral Directors, York. Tel. 01904 654460 /