MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan (1867-1892)

Recently I purchased two old wooden boxes containing brass rule and some dusty metal “sorts”. Sorts are cast metal type used for printing. I soon discovered that the sorts included some picture blocks but I could not make out what they actually depicted nor figure out how they were designed to be used.

After many hours of internet searching I found a photo of metal type that looked like mine. The American letterpress printer who owned them thought that they were from MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan. MacKellar, Smiths, & Jordan was type foundry based in Philadelphia. It was the dominant American metal type foundry, and became the main branch in the creation of American Type Founders in 1892. It continued to operate until the Philadelphia factory was destroyed in 1910.

In 1892 MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan published their Specimens of printing types: ornaments, borders, corners, rules, emblems, initials, &c.  After more searching I discovered a page in their book entitled Combination Orient Border containing all the picture blocks I had. While I do not have a full set, I had enough to create a January calendar page for the Association of Hand Printers in New Zealand.


THE DIVINE MUSES was founded by Siobhan Harvey in 2003 and provides an opportunity to hear leading New Zealand poets read their own poetry. As a poet and tutor Harvey recognised there was also a need to encourage new writers to poetry and with Jane Sanders established the NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition in 2012.

With the New Voices Emerging Poets Competition building each year, Harvey and Sanders decided in 2015 that they needed to look for additional funds to support the event. Lesley Smith suggested Poetry Broadsheets published by letterpress printing. Combining their interests in art and poetry, letterpress printing provides a unique way to promote poetry and create a beautiful handcrafted object.

Divine Muses has been delighted to work with some of New Zealand’s finest letterpress printers who have generously donated their time to interpret and print a poem by a poet participating in the current year’s Divine Muses evening of poetry. The resulting limited editions, printed on beautiful paper are offered for sale to build funds to support The Divine Muses and New Voices into the future.

I was partnered with Dr Paula Green and printed her poem Janet and Frank Go Rowing in silver on black 250gsm Stonehenge paper.