Primary Source of the Month
This print, titled “Habit d’Imprimeur en Lettres,” was created by Dutch engraver by Gerard Valck (1651–1726). It is one of a series of witty, imaginative, detailed engravings portraying itinerant vendors, tradesmen, and professionals wearing the tools and products of their occupations. The series included a variety of occupations, including tavernkeeper, candlemaker, shoemaker, cutler, tinsmith, printer, gardener, cabinetmaker, musician, gold and silversmith, perfumer, painter, locksmith, cooper, tailor, pastry cook, and more. Such trades series were very popular, and later sets were composed of as many as 189 different prints.
The French title of this print loosely translates to “The Printer’s Clothing” and depicts a printer wearing a printing press and other tools of his trade. He is shown holding an ink ball in his right hand and the press handle in his left hand. Above his head is a type case and visorum (copy board) containing copy to be composed into type. To the right of the copy board is a wooden galley used to hold set lines of type. Behind the printer’s back is a brayer to mix ink on the rear of the press. The small handle at waist level is a rounce handle for moving the type under the platen of the press. [NOTE: This handle is actually on the other side of a working press.] Two more type cases hang at each of the printer’s hips, and dangling from the right knee of his breeches are (from left to right) a composing stick, a pair of dividers, and a bodkin used to correct type after reading a printed proof.Source: Peter Stinely, journeyman printer, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.