The Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection

by David Shields. Average Reading Time: almost 4 minutes.

The personal collection of specimen catalogs, periodicals, and ephemera belonging to the multi-talented Nicholas Joseph Werner (1858–1940) is held by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at St. Louis Public Library in the Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection.

Werner began his work as a printer in 1873 in Atchison, Kansas at the age of fifteen. He became a compositor at the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis in 1882 and worked his way to become a designer and engraver for the company. In this position, he worked side-by-side with Gustav Schroeder. The two left Central about 1888 to form Schroeder & Werner working as independent matrix engravers. Their firm was dissolved in 1891 when Schroeder moved to California. Werner remained in St. Louis. Werner continued to work with Central and directed the printing — as well as writing, editing, and composing — of the firm’s type specimen catalogs in 1889 and 1890. In 1889, he also assisted J. A. Thayer, Jr. with the catalog for the Boston Type Foundry. During this period he also acted as editor, and frequent contributor, to the periodical Artist Printer. He used his writing for the magazine to advocate for casting type on the “Standard Line” (a process for systematizing the sizing of type bodies.) Werner joined Carl Schraubstädter’s sons’ Inland Type Foundry in 1895 where he directed the specimen catalog department as well as continued as a type designer and engraver. He worked at Inland until ATF acquired the foundry in 1912. Werner remained active in St. Louis and continued to write for the trade press (most notably The Inland Printer). Through this writing, he provided crucial documentation of matrix making and typefounding in the 1880s and 1890s.

The Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection is an excellent collection of printed materials that help trace the development of the typographic industry in St. Louis and illuminate the importance of these firms and their impact on typographic history. The collection holds a rich assortment of catalogs from the Boston Type and Stereotype Foundry, Central Type Foundry, Inland Type Foundry, Farmer, Little & Co, Missouri Brass Type Foundry, and wood type catalogs by William H. Page & Co and The Hamilton Mfg Co. The inimitable Bob Mullen has compiled (though not published) a thorough bibliography of catalogs and published materials held in the Werner Typographic Collection.

The St. Louis Public Library, under the direction of Amanda Bahr-Evola, Head of Special Collections and Assistant Director of the Central Library, has undertaken the project of digitizing part of the collection. Six items are currently available to browse. https://cdm17210.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/werner

Three of the wood type catalogs held in the collection have been documented and are available digitally.

[German] Specimens of Wood Type (1870). Greeneville, Connecticut: William H. Page & Company.

Specimens of Wood Type (1886). Norwich, Connecticut: William H. Page Wood Type Company.

STLPL’s copies of the William H. Page & Company’s 1870 catalog and the William H. Page Wood Type Company’s 1886 catalog are bound together in a single library binding.

Hamilton’s Wood Type (1894). Two Rivers, Wisconsin: The Hamilton Mfg. Co.

These specimens have also been added to a working list I have developed of wood type catalogs known to be available digitally. This working list has been folded into the larger ongoing project by Stephen Coles to compile a list of all type specimen catalogs available digitally.

If you missed the exhibition in 2016, definitely spend some time at the website for Cast and Recast exhibition for an excellent overview of the importance and impact of the St Louis typographic industry.


Loy, William E. Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type. Edited by Alastair M. Johnston and Stephen O. Saxe. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 2009.

MacMillan, David M., and Rollande Krandall. “Nicholas J. Werner.” Circuitous Root. 2012.

Mullen, Robert A. Recasting a Craft: St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005.

Mullen, Robert A. “The Typographical Heritage of St. Louis.” Cast and Recast. 2016. http://www.castandrecast.com/essay.html

Werner, N. J. An Address by N. J. Werner of St. Louis. St. Louis: St. Louis Club of Printing House Craftsmen, 1931.

Curt Teich Postcard Archives/Heritage Images. Central Library, St Louis, Missouri, USA, 1940. Postcard. The Daily Beast, May 16, 2021. https://img.thedailybeast.com