Skip to content
Apr 24 / Scott

Catchwords, Catch Phrases

Catchwords have always held a special fascination to me. One of the things I have always loved about printing with wood type, or looking at someone’s work, is the way a catchword adds that special accent. When I see a catchword or catch phrase in a print, I know it was made with wood type. I look for them in posters, postcards, prints on the wall in restaurants, and even on t-shirts. The recent trend in using wood type for marketing and advertising has opened another area to watch.

Up to this point I have been cutting replacement letters, geometric shapes like pyramids, squares, and circles, solid and open hearts, arrow heads, and special order ornaments. I have even been cutting several different US state outlines, both solid and open, for my daughter and her friend’s printing needs. Two of the first items I will be selling are the Tuscan Catchwords “AND” and “THE” from the Hamilton Wood Type Catalogue of 1899. I am cutting them in 15, 12, 10, 8, and 6 line end grain hard maple.


I started with these two catchwords after sending a survey out to 5 of my printer friends who have been a great help to me in starting-up Moore Wood Type. They helped me select the first 10 catchwords to cut  from the Morgans and Wilcox 1890, William H. Page 1876, and the Hamilton 1899 Catalogues. I will be doing most of my type cutting from historic sources, as well as special orders and new wood fonts that are being designed by several friends.  Watch for future dates when I will be cutting other popular catchwords.

The Hamilton Tuscan "THE" is considered by many printers to be a Classic

When people ask me why I take all the extra time and work it takes to recreate and cut catchwords, I explain that up to this point, for a printer to use a catchword, they had to be lucky enough to have some old ones in their collection, buy them from other printers and salvage suppliers like Dave Churchman or Don Black, or purchase one of the few examples that appear on E-Bay or other similar sites (at an inflated price).

I believe that every printer should have the chance to add catchwords to their collection, at a price they can afford, and more importantly, a chance to use them in their printing projects. I have always felt that catchwords are “Gems” for a letterpress printer and that increasing the number of catchwords and catch phrases in the print world is a good goal. I am producing them 2 at a time along with the other wood type I am cutting. I will post what I have for sale each week and what I plan to be cutting in the future. I will be cutting them at set sizes, and will take special orders for larger or special line sizes.

Leave a Comment