The Typographic Hub

Jubilee printing

11th January 2016

2002 was the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. Such milestones have always been marked by celebrations big and small, corporate and private that generate a range of memorabilia that reflect the diversity of the nation.

All levels of society participate in the celebration and the associated printed material mirrors this and forms a microcosm of varying tastes and techniques. The commemorative souvenirs span the good, the bad and the indifferent: orders of service, stamps, magazines, books, postcards, t-shirts, mugs, flags, posters, banners and bunting. Some of these souvenirs are saved for posterity; others are best forgotten.

In the past, printed ephemera produced for the State aspect of a coronation always reflected the solemnity and complexity of the ritual. It also showed the typographic tastes of the day and the technical innovations of the period. The invitations printed by G. Naylor for the 1821 coronation of George IV were particularly decorative. Display printing was just getting underway, and printers were keen to demonstrate their expertise. The typographic decoration was further embellished with the addition of engraving, die-cutting and heavy embossing. Queen Victoria’s coronation swept away all typographic frivolity and stern words were matched by minimal decoration. The invitations for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 were innovative: each invitation card was individually pulled from etched plates in sepia on to a hand-made cream paper. For the coronation of George V, Bernard Partridge, a popular illustrator was chosen to design the invitations but the result had overtones of work he produced for Selfridges and Punch, and failed to reflect the occasion. The publicity for the coronation of George VI was undistinguished in design, detail and printing technique and set the tone for much of the royal material produced in the twentieth century.

The majority of material produced to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of 2002 is not aimed at State dignitaries rather it is popular souvenirs. But what exactly is being printed, and does an event like the Golden Jubilee bring-out the best in British printing and provide a bountiful range of work for the trade?

Many of the jubilee souvenirs are unofficial; others have the approval of Buckingham Palace. The Palace has tried to ensure all authorised material is in good taste and carries the jubilee emblem created by Design Connection London. It is a simple, bold logo easily adapted for use in many environments, on a variety of substrates and within the tightest of budgets, it also works well in many sizes. There are 4 versions of the emblem: single-colour black on white; white out of black; gold crown with purple surrounding lettering; purple background, gold crown with the surrounding lettering white out of purple. Although the logo cannot be re-drawn or re-constituted, it can be applied to any printed items and can be found on a variety of souvenirs and flags, signing systems, fabrics and badges.

In the high street Marks & Spencer are almost alone in celebrating the jubilee. It chose to use a symbol created by its own design team rather than the official jubilee logo. Its shops are discretely decorated with gold and purple flags, posters and banners inviting customers to ‘join the jubilee’ whilst at the same time advertising products as diverse as cream teas and Y-fronts. For the customer there is a special Golden Jubilee magazine, paper table wear, flags, videos and chocolate lollipops covered in union flag foil.

The high street also proffers a number of magazines. Her Majesty and the Commonwealth: 50 Golden Years, is an official publication issued in aid of Save the Children. Published by Faircroft Ltd London on behalf of the Golden Jubilee Project, it is designed and produced by The Conservatory|Apex Group London, and printed in the UK. All the Queen’s Horses issued by MDA Publishing Ltd London is beautifully printed by Stephens & George specialist magazine printers in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Printed on Nimrod Silk 150gsm  [supplied by Gerald Judd Sales Ltd] it is a double-coated wood free paper that is high in whiteness, which shows off the photography to best advantage.

You can always depend on a good book to be produced to celebrate any royal occasion. The books are usually of the coffee table variety, heavily photographic and invariably full-colour. Perhaps because we have been inundated in recent years with royal titles, there are fewer celebratory books than I might have expected. Jubilee: a celebration of 50 years of the reign of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, published by Cassell & Co, London, is amply illustrated with a hefty 360-page extent. Unfortunately, it was printed and bound in Italy. Queen and Country published by the BBC to accompany the television series of the same name is set in a typeface called Spectrum that was, appropriately, designed in 1952 and issued by Enschedé. Queen and Country is predominantly monochrome, but there are some colour images for which Kestral Digital Colour of Chelmsford made the colour separations. There is a certain irony however in the BBC’s decision to go to the Imprimerie Pollina s.a. in France for the printing.

The newspapers are not overlooking the jubilee celebrations. The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday are running a ‘Great British Golden Jubilee Jamboree’ for its readers. Full-page advertisements for the jamboree are printed in red, white and blue, which are distinctly nineteenth century in layout and use of a sans serif type. The Daily Mail Golden Jubilee publicity has strong overtones of Empire. Inserted in to each newspaper is a jamboree raffle ticket, produced in quantities that must have kept some printer happy.

Of the remainder of jubilee printing available on the high street—bunting, gift bags, union flag table decorations, calendars, and red white and blue bowler hats—there is little that is remarkable and much that has been printed in China.

Although jubilee printing on the high street might be a sparse and a little disappointing, British printers have come in to their own with the more specialised printed memorabilia, and those produced using new technology.

There is a long tradition of producing royal commemorate stamps that seem to temporarily turn the whole nation into amateur philatelists. To mark the Golden Jubilee, Consignia has issued 5 stamps representing the 5 decades of the Queen’s reign. De La Rue Security Print, recognised as one of the world’s leading stamp printers, has supplied Consignia with the Jubilee series. Produced by gravure in sheets of 100, they appear monochrome but the printing marks show they have been printed in black, dark-gray and blue-green, plus silver for the value. Printed on paper that is multiple water marked with a ‘50’ on its side, these are the first stamps to be printed on water-marked paper since 1967, and the first not to show the Queen’s profile since 1977.

Today there is an alternative to offset litho printing. Digital presses deliver stunning full-colour quality combined with amazing versatility and variable data where required. They can print anything from a one-off to many thousands, with each one personalised both sides in colour on many substrates including papers, boards, vinyl and self-adhesives. This has changed the nature of the material that today’s printers can offer jubilee street- and garden-party-goers across the UK. One company putting the new technology to use for the jubilee celebrations is Jollybig.com part of the Buckingham Colour Group, Buckingham.

Jollybig.com offers high quality, creative and effective communication solutions to a diverse range of companies, from small businesses to large multinational organisations across a large number of industry sectors. It has a digital plant comprising: Xerox Docucolour 100 [475 mm print width x 8 mtrs length] with full variable information facility and Scitex DFE3000 front end; a Xerox DC 470 digital copier including scan facilities; and a Minolta Di620 digital copier with PC link. Jollybig.com gives a unique one-off poster printing service that allows customers to create their own personalised posters from a wide variety of pictures found in their extensive database. The customer can choose a picture, and add a personal message.

To help commemorate the Golden Jubilee Jollybig.com obtained official Buckingham Palace approval to produce special posters and banners featuring a photographic portrait of the Queen by Mark Lawrence. All the posters and banners can be text personalised to show the name of the street, village, town or organisation, and each has a brief résumé of the Queen’s reign on the reverse. Pubs, clubs, embassies and associations from the UK and all around the world have ordered jubilee posters and banners from Jollybig.com. The customer’s text is sent over the Internet and a ‘proof’ of the job can be viewed digitally. Posters are available in sizes 500 x 361 mm and 697 x 500 mm, and banners can be produced in 3 sizes 1.7, 3 and 5 meters. All items are printed on polyester and can be printed and delivered to the customer within 7 days.

For one company, at least, the jubilee is proving to be profitable.