Printers’ mark

This post aims to explain the back story of the New North Press monogram, or printers’ mark.

A printers’ mark was a symbol used by early printers to trademark their work. From C15th onwards printers such as William Caxon, Aldus Manutius and Christophe Plantin used these decorative devices to sign their work and they became associated with a mark of quality.

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Left, egs from Notable Printers’ Marks, by Paul Moxon. Right, Zerkall watermark

Having always admired the watermark of the Zerkall papers that we often print on at New North Press – a symbol which invokes similar iconography to these printers’ marks – we decided to do some further research. We discovered that many of these historic devices use an ‘orb and four’ motif, related to the ‘orb and cross’ – literally the earth surmounted by the cross – which is also the alchemical symbol for antimony, an ingredient in type metal. Often incorporated was the ‘4’ character which long before the development of printing had been a mark of merchants to identify their wares.

Inspired by this we set about to form a New North Press printers’ mark by combining the initials NNP into a single device with an elevated P in reference to the 4 of the historic marks.

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New North Press printers’mark cut in linoleum

To be able to print our new mark alongside our type we initially cut it from linoleum and mounted it to type high. However on a recent trip to Switzerland, Beatrice visited good friend Dafi Kühne who offered to cut us custom blocks in wood using his pantograph machine – a far more elegant and durable solution.

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New North Press printer’s marks cut using a pantograph by Dafi Kühne