14 Feb 2011


As with the previous post, I'm referencing Issue 13 of Voyage. In Bob Richardson's article 'Titanic's printers: Their legacy endures' he also tries to get to the bottom of where the print room was located and what typefaces may have been used by the printers and by the White Star Line at the time.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the print room on the Titanic and different plans show various possible locations that it could have been. 'Various plans of Titanic show differing locations for the print shop, but the tiny office adjacent to the First Class Pantry on D-Deck, and marked "Printers Room" (see page 198 of Susan Wel's Titanic) is far too small to have been anything other that a tiny administrative area... ...An enlarged deck plan of the RMS Olympic faxed to me by Harland & Wolff last July shows a good sized room on the port side of E-Deck, close to the Potato Store, which is clearly marked "16 printers"... ...The size of the room is perfect for a ship's print shop... ...The small D-Deck office may well have been used by the printers, for it made sense to have an office close to their main customer (the restaurants) and also permitted easier access for others requiring printed matter, saving a trip downstairs to the crew quarters.'

When it comes to the typefaces used onboard, we have proof of certain faces but can only speculate at others. Suprisingly enough, the 'Grot' face that Richardson puts forward is still very much in use today under various similar guises and digital forms ie. Akzidenz Grotesk and it's many modern variations.  'The typefaces in use in Titanic's print shop were commonplace in 1912. White Star exercised an uncommon degree of restraint in the use of ornamented faces. Their stationery used clean, modern layouts featuring unfussy typefaces, whilst many small British and American commercial print shops still favoured some of the over decorated Victorian gingerbread typefaces commonly seen in printed ephemera of the period. If White Star had a 'house' face, then it was Stephenson Blake's "Westminster," known as "Della Robbia" in the United States. Menus were printed using English "Grot" sans serif faces ("Gothic" in the U.S.) in a range of sizes. Many of these are still available from stock today, although Stephenson Blake no longer casts new type and can only supply from the limited range in their warehouse. Perhaps the most decorative face used on White Star stationery is Theodore De Vinne's distinctive design shown alongside, and used for passenger stationery headings such as "On Board RMS Titanic."'

'The cargo manifest for Titanic shows a wide range of printing related items. There were large quantities of books and stationery in the various cargo holds, including tissue, paper and parchment, and four boxes of printer's blankets. One of the most curious items, shipped for Brown Brothers, was 76 cases of dragon's blood. This material had nothing to do with the  mythical beast, but was in fact a type of acid-resisting resin commonly used in the manufacture of printing plates.'

'On the night of the sinking Albert and Ernest probably worked late. Orders for the breakfast menus would have come in during the afternoon, and although there was a set menu for certain days of the week this was Titanic's maiden voyage and many bills of fare were being set up from scratch, necessitating extra work. Had the ship managed to avoid the iceberg, the printers on subsequent voyages would have needed to change little more than the date on some later menus. Perhaps the men also printed Monday's lunch menus that Sunday evening. If the ship's print shop was indeed the area originally intended for 16 waiters, then it is possible Albert and Ernest also slept in the same area. We can only guess what happened to the printers when Titanic struck that great mass of ice, for none of the accounts make reference to them after the collision.'

'Both printers died in the disaster and their widows received financial assistance from the Titanic Relief Fund, for the White Star Line topped their wages at the moment the ship sank.'


  1. Hi Jamie,

    The blog is coming along nicely! You may be interested to know there was a printed business card picked up on the Titanic by Fr Browne. It could have been typeset on the ship. It belonged to Mr. T. W. Crowley, a Physical Educator from Scotland. The card was pasted into an album by Fr Browne and its shown in the book 'Father Browne's Titanic Album' by E. E. O'Donnell.

    Crowley worked in the ship's gymnasium. Fr Browne photographed him on a rowing machine after a morning workout on the 11th April 1912.

    I set up a blog there for the illustration project I'm doing about Fr Browne and the Titanic. It's www.getoffthatship.blogspot.com

  2. Hi Jamie,
    I was wondering if you happen to know where I can get the Westminster font that's shown in your post. Also, all the DeVinne fonts I've been able to locate don't match the one in your post, for some reason. Any idea which font it is from the DeVinne collection? Thanks.
    Michael Koebnick