Help to ID Lead Character Block

Hi all,

I found what looks like an old equivalent of a character map at a flea market yesterday (picked it up for $10).

I was wondering if anyone knows a bit more info about the use of this item and typeface etc.

It seems to weigh around 20lbs or so, made from lead and is approx 7” x 4” x 1”.

Is that copper coating the letters?

Thanks in advance!

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I know the type of block as a bi-metal block they dip the lead and electro plate ,then the surface is coated with photo sensitive coating ,exposed and then etched in an acidic solution ,after which the meat is engraved away . That is the best i can do as i am not a platemaker .
I have heard the term electro,s in connection with these as well but there are varying terms depending on what they were made from even though most plates are made in the same way but with slight variation !


Seen as the type isn’t moveable, does anyone know what the use of something like this was?
Was it used as some sort of test plate to show customers all the characters in the typeface?

Any idea of the age?

Thanks :)

And why is it right-reading?


In reality, an impression is made of the original form (could be type, cast slugs or a photoengraving) in a wax material. It is then electroplated with copper (thus the term “electrotype”). The copper shell is stripped from the wax mold and the back of it is filled with molten printers’ metal. The plate is then trimmed and prepared for impression.

I perhaps should have written the above in the passive voice as there may be no electrotype foundries left doing commercial work.

John Henry

The great mystery of it is why they felt it necessary to rout out around each individual character, and, as Alan asked, why is it right-reading?

Well its not modern , it was not used so i would assume it was made in reverse in error .
Routing the back away was sometimes not called for but like the polymers of today sometimes the material you are printing on can be soft and spongey and where open areas between the lines etc can clog with debris that may pick up and ink the job you get rid of what you can .I think the electro type process was as bad for your health as chroming and as the saying goes “You dont find old electroplaters “

Any grammarians around to explain to me what passive voice is? My memory of terms used to describe various parts of grammar is very poor.


Active: ‘I made a printing block’
Passive: ‘A printing block was made’.

The one thing that hasn’t been mkentioned yet is the identification of the typeface. It is P.T. Barnum.


The one thing that hasn’t been mkentioned yet is the identification of the typeface. It is P.T. Barnum.


Thanks for the information everyone. It’s still a bit of a mystery though isn’t it in terms of it’s use and age. It’s definitely something I’ll hang on to rather than sell I think.

Thanks for IDing the typeface!