South Street Seaport Museum 36 Days of Type

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Michelle Tabnick
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Things to do near New York, NY » Art » Visual-Arts

South Street Seaport Museum's 19th-century printing office Bowne & Co. announces participation in the eighth annual 36 Days of Type project on Instagram at @bowneprinters from April 5 - May 10, 2021. 36 Days of Type is about celebrating the breadth of approaches to designing letters, and Bowne & Co. hopes their contribution extends that conversation with historical examples.


An annual international initiative, 36 Days of Type invites designers, illustrators and graphic artists to express their interpretation of Latin alphabet letters and numbers on Instagram over 36 consecutive days. This year, The South Street Seaport Museum's 19th-century printing office Bowne & Co. will partake in the event not by posting newly designed letterforms, but by posting scans of printed letterforms and close-up photography of the type artifacts themselves, so as to celebrate the history of decorative and expressive letterforms from the 19th and early 20th centuries. These letterforms come from wood printing type that is part of the working collection at the museum. 


"The history of wood type is closely tied with the Seaport. The production of type from wood dates back to 13th-century China, but the first instance of industrially produced wood type is attributed to Darius Wells and the pantographic router he invented in 1827, which was used to produce the first-known wood type catalog in 1928," said Robert Wilson, Art Director of Bowne. "When type is needed in larger sizes—for posters, broadsides, billboards, and signage—it is made of wood, rather than lead. In this context, the type is meant to be seen, rather than read. This meant that the type needed to be as expressive as possible, and many wood types take tremendous liberties with altering traditional letterform designs."


About Bowne & Co.

Established by Robert Bowne in 1775, Bowne & Co. holds the distinction of being New York's oldest operating business under the same name. After growing as a financial printer throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Bowne & Co. Inc. partnered with the Seaport Museum in 1975 to open a 19th-century-style print shop at 211 Water Street in the South Street Seaport Historic District. Today, it is comprised of the Bowne & Co. Printing Office, a workspace that continues the age-old tradition of job (or small batch) printing using seven historic presses from South Street Seaport Museum's working collection, alongside Bowne & Co. Stationers, 19th-century-style emporium selling gifts and fine goods.


About the South Street Seaport Museum

The South Street Seaport Museum, located in the heart of the historic seaport district in New York City, preserves and interprets the history of New York as a great port city. Founded in 1967, the Museum houses an extensive collection of works of art and artifacts, a maritime reference library, exhibition galleries and education spaces, working nineteenth century print shops, and an active fleet of historic vessels that all work to tell the story of "Where New York Begins."

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