Skip to content
Aug 6 / Scott

Line Ornaments by any other name

When a printer friend heard I was going to be cutting historic line ornaments, he told me this story…

In the 1800’s, if you were a farmer and went to the local printer to have signs made to advertise the sale of  “Five Hogs at Auction on Saturday”, you expected to get lots of printing for your hard earned money. The printer would have most likely centered your message in large wood type, which would leave some white space at the ends of several lines. When the farmer came to pick up his hog sale signs, he was often very upset. “Look at all this wasted space on the outside of the sign. You’re trying to cheat me!”

Page Type Specimen Book pg. 30 courtesy of David Wolske and Letterpress Daily

To resolve this problem, William Page designed a series of wood ornaments that could be used at both ends of a line of type. They filled up the open white space and added a beautiful design to the signs. These pieces were always sold in pairs.

In researching older  type specimen books from around the country, several sold line space ornaments under the title of “Page Ornaments.”  These ornaments were at one time considered a basic item in every printer’s inventory of type. They appear in almost every historic type specimen book, but each company called them something different.

The Inland Type Foundry = “Inland Ornaments”

The American Type Founders 1912 book = “Page Ornaments”

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company = “Fancy Ornaments”

Morgans and Wilcox = “Ornaments”

Marder, Luse and Co. = “Word Ornaments”

The Great Western Type Foundry = “Line Ornaments”

W.H. Page just called them “Line Space Ornaments”

I will be selling them under the name “Line Ornaments” in pairs at 6, 8, and 10 line/pica in the MWT Type Shop. I will also be taking special orders for 12 and 15 line. With my small line pantograph and a 1/32” carbide pantograph cutter, the smallest that is able to be cut is 6 line.  If someone really wants 5 line, I would do them as a special order.

MWT notecards off the showcard press

So far I have learned several lessons when cutting these line ornaments.

1. William Page and his team were gifted designers creating ornaments containing balance, symmetry, and an organic, natural feel.

2. It take lots of hard maple to make the big line size ones, and you break a lot of very small pantograph cutters in the process of cutting the small line ones.


Leave a Comment