Not sure how to get press mat authenticated

I have a press mat from the front page of The New York Times from July 21, 1969, stating that man landed on the moon. This was given to me by my father as he worked for the New York Times. There were 2 mats, one which was used for the first page and the other was a backup. The original was full of ink and disposed of but the second one was given to my father as a present. I’ve been trying to have it authenticated over the past few years to no avail. Does anyone have any ideas how I can get this done? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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First of all you need to use the terminology correctly to describe what you have.

A stereotype mat (matrix) is a paper-based material which is held in a cylindrical casting box into which molten typemetal is poured to form a curved plate which could be mounted oin the press. It is this plate, and not the mat which is inked and creates an image on the paper.

More than likely what you have is a stereotype mat which was impressed with the image for that day’s front page. It would be most unlikely that someone would create the form again to match that day’s page, and most likly the mat you have is original given the connection with you father and handed directly to you.

A few years back, on the Antiques Roadshow on PBS, a cast metal stereotype plate was brought in to be appraised. It was for the first newspaper produced in the Oklahoma Territory after it was opened up for settlement. The appraiser valued it quite highly, without realizing that that first newspaper would have been produced by printing directly from handset type as stereotype equipment would not have been available to the publisher in the days immediately following the Land Rush. The stereo plate was most likely produced for the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Land Rush. The appraiser later indicated on the website that a mistake had been made after it was brought to his attention.

John H.

You’re correct, the type of mat I have is the stereotypical type of mat you described. It is an off-white rubbery material with the image imprinted into it. I would take a picture but because of the color it would not come out.

Unfortunately do to hard times I might have to sell it. I cannot do so without proving the authenticity of the mat. Do you have any ideas how I might proceed in getting this authenticated?

A bit late but perhaps of interest to others.

If it is flexible you may have one of two things.

If it is right reading recessed text then it should be a ‘flong’ which is a papier-mâché or similar matrix for casting multiple stereotype plates that was made (using heat and pressure) from the original composed type (parts could be plates, blocks, loose type, line cast slugs and borders). The flong is never inked deliberately but may have some ink left in the depressed portions where the remaining ink from proofing the original is picked up.

Or you may have a ‘flexo plate’ this would be raised text that was mirror reading and might show ink if it was used and not washed well. I’m not sure if flexo printing was popular in 1969 but that is easy to find out.

Letterpress was used in news printing for a long time because of the heavy capital cost of machinery that was not worth replacing.

If you still have it your best bet is to compare the image with an original edition of the paper that it was supposed to have printed. All printed marks should correspond. The dimensions of the printing should be almost exact (excluding age and humidity related expansion or shrinkage) in one direction (may print a few percent different in the circumferential direction). Then also visit with a few old newspaper men who might recognise the material as a period type material or a modern reproduction.

I saw a lovely flong from an English language news paper front page that described I think some or other significant period of French fighting (perhaps the revolution) and also had a interesting article about dynamite by the Nobel dynamite factory indicating that even if you had a warehouse full of the stuff blow up it could not level the whole of London as the force dissipates with distance. Such were the concerns people had long before minivans were filled with fertilizer. It was framed behind glass and priced at about US$100 if I remember but this was when I was only thinking of letterpress printing and might have purchased it if I were to see one now to hang up as art.


Idyllic Press
Johannesburg, South Africa