The Collection is a nice little movie about a collection of 60,000 cuts/blocks for newspaper movie adverts. The story about it appears at Atlas Obscura. You can watch the film here — it’s only 11 minutes long.

(If you don’t see the Vimeo video here, please click on the title of this post in order to view it in your browser.)

I guess it’s good that there are lots of people who are movie enthusiasts: there’d be no market for a collection of old blocks from say Mackays of Chatham or The Cambridge Evening News. In the olden days all printed illustrations used to require this sort of physical object in order for them to be printed — with a raised area to pick up the ink, and recessed areas to “print” white. Most would naturally be rather uncollectible, even if printers had gone to the bother of saving them.

I’m not sure why these would all have ended up at the storage room of their originator, KB Typesetting of Omaha, Nebraska. After all, in order to print from them, the local newspapers around the country would have needed to have the blocks on hand. I guess the blocks would have been mailed out to all the printers from this central address: very few letterpress printers had their own engraving set-up. Can they have been required to return the block after completing printing? I doubt it. I assume that the ones held in inventory were there for the odd late rush order.

If you want to see how such a block was made, please look at the amazing videos at my earlier post, Engraving a halftone block. The functions carried out in the first of these videos would almost certainly have taken place at the movie studio. KB’s involvement would have started at the beginning of the second video with receipt of finished art or negatives from the studio.