Caslon Tray: A short tale of two printers.

Some years ago, possibly as many as 8 or 9. I went with a good friend who had a printing company in the Midlands to take a look at his printing company. I was familiar with what the inside of a printing company looked like as I’d worked as a salesman for one in Gloucester for a while. My friends printing company had been in business for many years and had a fine reputation in the area. The company I worked for had a similar reputation in the Gloucester area and beyond. Both had been family businesses, the one in Gloucester started by the management’s father.

What struck me about my friend’s place was just how old fashioned it looked. This tray was a sample of just a few things lying around the factory that had probably not been used for decades. Efforts to modernise would have had to be radical indeed to get it all looking remotely modern. The one I worked for had no such stuff lying around and the management had invested heavily in the most modern print methods, though they did keep hundreds of paper records going back up to ten years on dusty shelves on a mezzanine floor. I’m not sure quite why as they also had digital files going back years too. The Gloucester company also had many loyal employees who’d worked for them for years too, so it was a bit of a surprise in some ways that they invested in me at 58 years old ( and kept me for the next ten years, a proper job for the first time in 30 years after all that time freelance cartooning ) They were a great bunch of people to work with. Life there was never boring and if anyone wants to write a play about printing works, then my ten years certainly gave me an insight into what it was like and the human stories that are glued to such places. Like they used to say about the News of the World: All human life is there. Perhaps I should write it someday.

Meanwhile, back in the Midlands, my friend’s company has now shut its doors and no longer trades. It seemed to me on the visit that this might have been a possibility. I wonder what happened to those trays of Caslon type. I hope they found a good home.

The one in Gloucester? Still going strong. The brothers who ran it have all retired and they sold it to the employees. I understand that the employees then sold it again, and it might have even been sold again after that. Some of the employees that I worked with have dissipated, gone on to other businesses, retired, or gone on to do other things. I’m sure that a few of the employees that I worked with are still there but it essentially a different ship and a new crew.

There’s unlikely to be a tray of Caslon in the building. I wonder what they have done with that dusty archive on the mezzanine?

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