Haverhill’s Museum of Printing Acquires Vintage Wood Ornamental Type Collection

Examples of wood ornamental type from the Lyons Collection. (Courtesy photograph.)

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Haverhill’s Museum of Printing plans to offer a permanent wood type exhibit and workshops now that it has acquired a major vintage type collection.

The museum has taken over the Lyons Collection previously housed at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Thomas J. Lyons collected Victorian wood and metal type from the 1920s to the 1980s and amassed more than 2,500 unique typefaces. Lyons’ grandson, Steve, said the collector spent two years in the AEF Airforce during World War I. When he returned from France for a stint in an advertising agency, he was inspired by a freelance designer, George Trenholm, who used old fashioned ornamented typography. Lyons moved to his own print shop in 1924 which operated in Allston.

“When the Great Depression struck, printers began dumping the old ornamented type, and TJ went all in to build his collection,” his grandson said in a statement. This type was then in demand by ad agencies anxious for type that would stand out.”

Some of his type was made into film and digital fonts by VGC and Compugraphic in the 1960s and 1970s, but it all exists as individual pieces of wood and metal, to be set by hand, one letter at a time.

“This collection cries to be used,” said Museum of Printing President Frank Romano, “and the Museum will have workshops and student projects that use this type for design and print projects.”

He said, a permanent wood type exhibit will show the beauty and uniqueness of these fonts, but, more importantly, we will see the harmony of type and ink and paper, as they come together to produce typographic art.

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