Identify this part

Anyone have a clue what part this is and to what machine? I believe it has something to do with the production of typography or manufacture of letter forms.

image: TypePart?—60.jpg


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It’s a Sanspareil matrix for casting very large types, invented by William Caslon IV in 1810. Unlike standard matrices, which are made by striking a hardened steel punch into a copper (or brass) blank, Sanspareil mats are created as a “stencil” cut-out of the letterform (usually made from rolled brass or copper sheet) which is then riveted to a backing plate (you can clearly see the six rivets holding the mat together). This matrix is for the letter “O”.

Thank you kind sir. —Flyn

Wow, quite the history. Should it belong in a museum? Depending on the size, 72 pt. or below, I can probably cast it.


The majority of the Sanspareil matrices I have seen at St Bride Library in London are 72pt or larger. The Type Archive in London also has a very large collection from the foundry of Stephenson Blake and the companies they absorbed over the centuries. Beautiful examples of very fine engineering in a period we think of as relatively unsophisticated.

This image shows additional characters in the form of Sanspareil matrices from a very similar face to the example posted above. All held in the collections at St Bride Library in London.

image: Sanspareil.JPG


Did you end up donating this to St. Bride?

I just saw the same photo pop up in this story:

If you did, well done! :)


More likely, that image was used as part of a competition for type magazine… And somebody wanted to enter.