Emile Bertaut

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Identified in { Millington} (p. 82) as an "independent punchcutter" who in 1894 entered into a five year contract to work directly for Stephenson, Blake (p. 129).

Millington indicates that it was the influence of Bertaut which caused Stephenson, Blake finally to install a Benton-Waldo punch engraving machine (probably circa 1891, while he was still an independent). There some implication in Millington's account that Bertaut may have had such a machine himself, but given their very high cost I think that this is unlikely.

What Millington says is: "Six years [probably 1885 + 6 = 1891] were to elapse before Stpehenson finally installed a Benton-Waldo machine, and even then it was at the instigation of an outsider, Emile Bertaut, a feelance punchcutter. On being commissioned to cut a new typeface, Bertaut announced that he would initially set his assistant cutting the punches on a Benton-Waldo machine and that he himself would undertake the finishing by hand." (p. 82)

This passage could mean: (a) That Bertaut had a Benton-Waldo machine and Stephenson, Blake were required to match it in order to commission him. The fact that Bertaut was an independent punchcutter at this time (circa 1891, and in no case later than 1892) supports this hypothesis. (b) That Bertaut would not undertake the commission until Stephenson, Blake installed such a machine. As we know from surviving records of the Benton and Waldo Type Foundry, (see Rehak, Practical Typecasting, p. 109) the lease price of their punch engraving was $2,000 to $5,000, with most machines leasing in the $4,500 to $5,000 range. Conversion of this cost to modern terms is complicated, but reasonable conversions for $5,000 1889 dollars to 2011 dollars range from $126,000 (based on increases in the Consumer Price Index) to $1,010,000 (based on increases in the cost of the skilled labor it would take to build it). I would think that this would have been more than an independent punchcutter could have afforded at the time. Typefounding has traditionally been an excellent way not to get rich.

Bibliography:

http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

Millington, Roy. Stephenson Blake: The Last of the Old English Typefounders. New Castle, DE and London: Oak Knoll Books and The British Library, 2002.

Rehak, Theo. Practical Typecasting. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1993.


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