The Werner Collection: A Local Legacy of Type

Looking at 1889 catalog
Looking over the 1889 Central Type Foundry catalog with Kris.

The fine folks from The Firecracker Press and Central Print recently stopped by Special Collections to view selections from the Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection. The collection, which originally belonged to Mr. Werner himself, includes a number of rare typeface catalogs and specimen books dating back to the 1880s. By blending fresh ideas with vintage printing technology, The Firecracker Press produces unique designs for posters, greeting cards, and other printed objects. Central Print works to preserve the craft of letterpress printmaking by hosting workshops and classes for all ages.

Central Type Foundry 1889 catalog
Central Type Foundry 1889 catalog
Werner's signature
Werner's signature inside the catalog

Werner was born in 1858 in nearby Belleville, Illinois. After gaining experience in the printing business apprenticing for Kansas dailies, he was hired as a compositor - or typesetter - in the specimen department at St. Louis’s Central Type Foundry in 1882. The acquisition from Germany of a matrix engraving machine enabled the foundry to create original faces - or fonts. Central became a leader in the industry and Werner’s skills and responsibilities soon expanded to designing and manufacturing type.

Werner briefly partnered with designer and engraver Gustav Schroeder and the men produced several important typefaces, including the DeVinne series, which enjoyed international popularity. Later, Werner put his typesetting and making expertise to work at the Inland Type Foundry. He frequently contributed articles to printing trade journals, such as the Artist Printer and Inland Printer. He is also remembered for successfully promoting the adoption of standardized type-face alignment, saving compositors time and printers money.

Jefferson series
Examples of the Jefferson series designed and created by Werner with Schroeder.

To learn much more about the prominent role St. Louis played in the typefounding industry, look to Robert A. Mullen’s Recasting A Craft. To make an appointment to visit Special Collections and view the typographic collection, please call 314-539-0370.

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