These drawers of type belonged to W.J.”Buck” Taylor, who ran a small printing business in Pilton Street until his death in 1992. Letterpress printing using type like this was invented by Gutenberg in the mid 15th century and was the main form of printing until the late 20th century, employing millions of typesetters in the UK.
A type case is a printer’s drawer with different sized compartments holding characters of movable type for letterpress relief printing. The largest compartments are for vowels and spaces, while the smallest are for less used characters such as the ‘x’ and ‘q’. The compositor takes out a pair of type cases and places one above the other, the ‘caps’ case with the capital letters above and the other case directly below. This is where the terms ‘upper case’ and ‘lower case’ come from. Then using his setting stick, the compositor starts setting by hand from copy provided, which is quite an art. When he has finished, his setting is read, corrected, and then placed securely into a page for printing.
Buck Taylor was a very significant person in North Devon. In 1942 the Barnstaple MP Richard Acland switched his allegiance to the new socialist Common Wealth Party. Buck Taylor was the Secretary of the party until his death. He was also one of the leaders of the North Devon Movement, founded in 1968 to elect Councillors who would campaign for improvements in North Devon which would not destroy its unique character.
The type displayed here might have been used for one of Buck’s campaigning leaflets.