Friday, September 5, 2008

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Walking around Salisbury recently I decided to avert my eyes from the cathedral for once and have a close look at the magnificent buildings that surround it. But before I got to the cathedral close, something else began to strike me. This city has several interesting examples of old lettering on buildings. Inspired by the recent talk about Antonioni’s film Blow-Up over at Unmitigated England I thought I’d see what would happen if I blew up one or two of my pictures of these signs.

Well, no murders, thankfully, or lurking gunmen, but some rather less sensational details. This is an old newspaper office and printing works, probably dating to the 1870s or 1880s, home to two titles proud of their steam printing press. Although the green eyeshades have long been hung up and the presses moved to some Wiltshire Wapping, the names of two indigenous papers remain, reminders of a time when the local press was the source of regional and national news for almost everyone.
Look more closely and you can see how deeply cut these letters – and their frame – are. In spite of the fact that several generations’-worth of white paint have blurred their edges somewhat, they still stand out in the sun. The frame of the sign rests on little metal lugs, suggesting that it’s structurally separate from the façade. And yet the crack that’s snaking it’s way down the front goes though the sign too, so the connection is clearly quite close. So my blow-up reveals, if not some threat to human life, a bit of wall trouble, at least. Watch out as you pass...


Peter Ashley said...

Old newspaper offices often still proclaim their now defunct titles. The typographic mosaics of Dundee D.C.Thompson's Fleet Street offices are worth a look, and I once got stared at very hard by a sub editor or somebody as I looked up at the lettering 'Hexham Courier' that was just underneath where he was sitting.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, and there are many such places dotted around provincial towns, for local newspapers once had an importance they lack now, eclipsed as they are by the dailies, not to mention all the other media with which we are allegedly 'bombarded'. Other kinds of publishing were more provincial in earlier centuries too, with great artists like Bewick getting lots of work locally – in his case in Newcastle.