Discursion 12, July 1907
Henry Lewis Bullen [1857–1938]. Author [pen-name Quadrat], Discursions of a Retired Printer: The Inland Printer, 1906-1907. Australian native best remembered as Historian of the American Type Founders' Company [ATF], 1908–1936.

Bullen was first employed by ATF as Acting Manager of the New York Branch/Advertising Manager 1893-1898. During these years, he secured safe storage of members’ catalogs and records for a future national printing museum when all production would be centralized in a single location.

In 1898, he was appointed manager of the Buffalo Branch. After two high-profile positions elsewhere, he was unemployed in 1906–1908. Annenberg accounts that he “went into seclusion for many months.”

Knowing that ATF’s headquarters was planned, he apparently resolved to “follow his heart” and commit his efforts to the museum project. His long-time friend Henry O. Shepard, publisher of The Inland Printer, featured his anonymous series of 16 Discursions, which realistically amounted to a “job application.”

In this context, it is interesting to observe his flattery of typefounders, particularly ATF officers. He attributes all typeface designs and technical advancements to them personally.*

He proposed his idea in the first installment (July 1906), pretending to be unaware that many materials were already available. In March 1907, he advertised for rare books and typographia. When he had acquired a world-class collection of some 300 volumes, he “hinted” that he was willing to donate it to a worthy recipient and was available to manage it.

Bullen was re-hired by ATF in 1908 (official capacity not recorded in the literature), when the Jersey City headquarters was occupied. He volunteered as curator and conducted these duties during evening hours and weekends. He retrieved the materials in storage, lent his personal trove, and acquired many more artifacts of worldwide printing history.

By the mid-1920s, the collection of 12,000+ objects dating from 1486 was the largest in the US and one of the most prestigious in the world. During the Great Depression, the ATF plant moved to Elizabeth and the library was closed. In 1934 or 1936 (historians differ), it was transferred to Columbia University, which purchased it in 1941.

Annenberg adds that Bullen apparently retrieved his personal collection: “The Bullens opened a rare book store in New York City after he retired and the library had been shipped off.”

*William E. Loy's series on Designers and Engravers of Type (The Inland Printer, 1898–1900) and Typefounders and Typefounding in America (The Inland Printer, 1900–1905) record objective, accurate information on US type designers and their employers/clients.


Anonymous: Henry Lewis Bullen. In The Inland Printer 20:204-205, November 1898.
Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, pages 11-13. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
Lohf, K.A. (1986): American Type Founders Company. In Journal of Library History 21:764-767, Fall 1986.
Osborne, R.: Bullen, Henry Lewis (1857-1938). In World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (Edition 3), pages 155-156. American Library Association Editions, 1993.
American Type Founders’ Company: Typographic Library and Museum. In Specimen Book and Catalog, page 14. Jersey City, 1923.

More Discursions: www.flickr.com/photos/51266334@N08/collections/7215764907...
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