Patent Leather Type

by David Shields. Average Reading Time: about a minute.

The following entry was originally published in the May, 1897 issue of The Printer and Bookmaker{1}. The letter to the editor from a Mr George Jacobs describes a unique method of producing large scale printing type. Though patent leather was invented in Brussels in the late 1700’s and commercially produced in America starting in 1819, primarily for producing durable wearable goods, this is the first, and possibly the only, reference to using the material as a printing material. The letter also seems to ostensibly condone a pragmatic form of piracy.

Patent Leather Type.
Boston, April 10, 1897

To the Editor:
I believe that every printer should let his light shine, and if he has any special knowledge that may be useful to others of the craft he should write it out and send it to The Printer and Bookmaker for the benefit of others. Recently I saw some very good poster type made out of patent leather glued to a pine board. While there may be a good many printers who know how to make this sort of type, I suspect that there are a hundred to one who, like me, have been ignorant of the method, so I give a description as I received it. The best way is to secure an impression of the letters you wish to copy, cut them out of paper, and paste them down on a surface of patent leather. Then cut out the leather with a sharp knife and glue it to a wood base, smooth side up. A little practice will enable a good penknife artist to turn out large type at a less cost than the regular wood type, and what is of more consequence, usually, will secure him the use of a few sorts for the poster in hand without waiting for a supply from the maker.
— Geo A Jacobs

This entry and the entire issue of The Printer and Bookmaker can be found archived online.

  1. The Printer and Bookmaker (New York: Howard Lockwood & Co, 1897), vol 24, no 3. “Patent Leather Type.” p 117–118 []