Thursday, 25 August 2011

Finally a 'Spotlight on' More Recent History

The following article was kindly sent to us by Barry Reed, the current owner of Vincent Brooks, Day & Son. With Barry's help we are slowly filling in the gaps in our knowledge- from 1940 right up to the present day.

The article is from the in-house journal of International Printers Ltd.

Journal of International Printers Ltd
June, 1966
Vol. 2, No. 2
Pages 2 & 3

Spotlight on…
Vincent Brooks, Day and Son

We went to Vincent Brooks, Day and Son-adjoining the Baynard Press at Chryssell Road, Brixton-with the intention of obtaining a column of copy for INTo PRINT about this unit of the General Printing Division, a subsidiary company of Sanders Phillips since 1940.
Twenty minutes’ conversation with Ernest Hart, and we realised that half a page would not do justice to what we discovered to be the oldest lithographers in the United Kingdom, and possibly the oldest company in our Corporation.

As our young apprentices should know, lithography was introduced into Britain by Senefelder, who came to Britain for a short visit in 1800. As a result of that visit, his partner, Philip Andre, came over here, took out patents and, in 1803, published the first album of British lithographs, or Poly-autographs, as they were then called.
The firm which was to become Vincent Brooks, Day and Son was founded in the year 1823 by William Day at Gate Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. The new ‘plano-graphic’ process of printing from the lithographic stone was to be developed commercially and stones and presses were imported from Germany.
In 1835 Louis Haghe, the Belgian artist, became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Day and Haghe.

Earliest auto-lithography
Haghe was the first artist lithographer to create what is known today as auto-lithography, in colour. In one of his many articles, the late T. E. Griffits, chair of Vincent Brooks, Day and Son from 1942 to 1957, recalled seeing one of Haghe’s best works, ‘The Burning of Jerusalem’, in the window of Cornelissen’s in Great Queen Street, where, he says, it was displayed for many years.
INTo PRINT rang Cornelissen and learned that they still have copies of this print.
Among many other works Haghe lithographed a large number of illustrations to a book entitled ‘Sketches of Belgium and Germany’. It was published in 1840.
This beautiful work consisted of black chalk drawings printed on a deep-buff tint on which highlights had been scrapped away.

By Royal Appointment
Recognition of the high standards of work achieved during the pioneering years of lithography came in July 1837, when the firm were appointed lithographers to Queen Victoria.
In 1845 the firm became Day and Son. In 1848 the firm of Vincent Brooks was founded and the two firms merged under the name of Vincent Brooks, Day and Son, in 1867.
The Royal Family were so interested in lithography that the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred paid a visit to the works in Gate Street in 1856.

The ‘Grammar of Ornament’
It was about this time that the Owen Jones ‘Grammar of Ornament’ was lithographed and printed at Gate Street. This great work consisted of 100 Imperial Quarto plates, some having as many as 16 printings with gold and silver. The plates were lithographed in just over a year, a wonderful achievement. The book was reprinted from the original set of 280 imperial size stones in 1910, and again in 1926.
Another interesting piece of work was the lithographing of ‘The Last Supper’ in over twenty printings. This was the largest coloured lithograph of the period and a specially large press (Antiquarian) was erected to take the stones.

A gold medal
The firm exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and were awarded the Gold Medal of the exhibition for their fine display of colour printing.
It was about this time that Vincent Brooks, Day and Son were appointed lithographers to the Prince of Wales.
The ‘Vanity Fair’ cartoons of famous personalities by ‘Spy’ were reproduced by Arthur Duke of Vincent Brooks, Day and Son, for nearly 40 years from 1860[sic].
In 1870 a delightful book entitled ‘The Riviera from Cannes to Genoa’ contained 12 lithographs in colour from drawings by the then Dean of Canterbury.

In 1898 the firm’s premises at Gate Street burned down and they moved to 48 Parker Street, Kingsway.

Brilliance and permanence in colour
Many beautiful lithographs in colour were drawn by Charles Risdon, printed by Vincent Brooks, Day and Son, and published by George Rowney. Copies of his ‘Holy Family’ and ‘Venice’ were seen again quite recently –splendid examples of colour printing in every way. The blue of the sky and the red of the clothing had retained their brilliance.

Turner, William Morris, ‘Baxter’ prints
Works by J. M. Turner, William Morris and many other distinguished artists were reproduced in colour of exceptional quality.
‘The Botanical Magazine’ plates were lithographed and printed for many years on a hand press and later on a flat-bed machine. They were skilfully drawn and printed in black from stone and the prints were hand-coloured. The firm also produced ‘Baxter’ prints under licence.
In 1909 George G. Harrap published the first book illustrated by Willy Pogany , ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’, followed by ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’, with many auto-lithographs by the artist.

Dickens’ illustrations –from steel engraved plates
Dickens’ works, published by Chapman and Hall, had illustrations which were printed from the original steel-engraved plates on a star press. The plates were then transferred to stone and printed as a sheet of 16 pages. To obtain the rich quality of the original prints a second black was drawn to a setoff of the original black and these stones were then printed by direct litho.

Renaissance of auto-lithography
In 1910 the firm became the official printers to the Senefelder Club and thus began the renaissance of the artist auto-lithographer. A large number of enthusiastic artists produced some excellent lithographs, although very few were in colour.
In 1912 the first offset printing machine was introduced and two pictures for a publishing house were drawn by Griffits and James Bolland. They were a great success and astonished many printers because of the lack of visible texture and the very rough paper on which they were printed. Rough cartridge and antique papers were then beginning to supersede the smooth litho and chromo paper, up to then the only paper suitable for direct litho printing.

(Image above) T. E. (Tom) Griffits began his apprenticeship with Vincent Brooks, Day and Son in 1899.His long experience with the firm of which he became chairman in 1942 covered a wide range of work, from the ‘Vanity Fair’ caricatures to the earliest London Underground posters of John Hassell. Griffits collaborated with many artists in his lithographic life, among them Joseph Pennell, Muirhead Bone, William Nicholson, Spencer Pryse, Will Dyson, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Barnett Freedman.

The first Underground posters
The firm reproduced some of the first London Underground posters introduced by Frank Pick, whose design influence is still felt. Pick’s artists became famous. Fred Taylor, McKnight Kauffer and Walter West are names one associates with these pioneering days.

(Image Left) There is little doubt that the patronage of London Transport and Shell between the wars developed the quality of lithographic poster reproduction in this country to a high level. Barnett Freedman, brilliant auto-lithographer, freely acknowledged his debt to Griffits, and there is little doubt that the whole school of auto-lithographers (Edward Ardizzone, S. R. Badmin, Clarke Hutton, Lynton Lamb) owned much to Griffits and Vincent Brooks, day and Son. The 1920 poster above is from the London Transport’s Museum.

Shell posters
Early Shell-Mex posters were largely reproduced by Griffits and printed at Vincent Brooks, Day and Son Ltd. Barnett Freedman produced his own lithograph for two of them under Griffits’ supervision. This artist produced a fascinating ‘Peep show’ advert for Shell and also lithographed a fine set of illustrations for Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’.

Fire again
Nine months after they were taken over by Sanders Phillips and Co. Ltd in 1940, the Parker Street premises were destroyed by fire during an air raid, but the company, operating from London offices in Norfolk Street, Strand, son established Government contracts for reproducing maps for Bomber Command, plans for M.I.8, and, after ‘D’ Day, ‘communication maps’ which were collected by the R.A.F. and flown direct to France.
When these contracts ran out at the end of the war, Ernest Hart decided to specialise in the reproduction of town and country planning maps, and this now constitutes the main business of the company, and is expanding.
Typical of their work is a new series of land utilisation maps for King’s College Geographic Department, which are produced in 11 colours.
Recent examples of their work include motorways and transport maps for the Greater London Council.

ERNEST HART (left) has been a lifetime with Vincent Brooks, Day and Son. He is not related to TOM HART, managing director of the General printing Division, but is the father of JOHN HART, who has just joined Cond’s from the Baynard Press. With Ernest, and in both pictures, is chief draughtsman, SIDNEY REED.

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