Raymond Stanley Nelson, Jr
Stan Nelson is Museum Specialist Emeritus in the Graphic Arts Collection, Smithsonian
Institution, National Museum of American History.
Stan was employed at the National Museum for thirty-one years, retiring in October of
2003, but continues to work at the museum in an emeritus status. During those three
decades he worked almost exclusively with the history of printing technology, with
an emphasis on those methods employed during the first four centuries of printing.
Particular effort has been focused on type founding, including the cutting of punches and
the use of hand moulds in the production of printing type.
As a part of his museum duties, Stan Nelson conducted regular public demonstrations
of three working printing shops and a type foundry. The earliest of these three printing
offices took Benjamin Franklin as a theme, and included the ‘Franklin Press,’ the
ancient press named in honor of the American ‘patron saint’ of printing. This old,
English common press was the basis of the Sisson and Harris book in which Clinton
Sisson provided detailed working drawings taken from the press. Through these years
of experience and study Stan became very familiar with the construction and use of these
basic printing machines, as well as many of the presses that followed.
Over the years Stan has given innumerable lectures and conducted seminars and
workshops on type founding and printing. Since retiring, he has taught five, week-long
courses on the History of Typography at the University of Virginia’s, Rare Book School.
Honors and Awards include the Typophiles Award and the American Printing History
Association’s 25th annual Laureate Award
Stan has authored many publications and is currently working on a book about the history
and use of type moulds called “The Typefounders’ Handmould” to be published by The
In 2007/08, he participated in a BBC production, The Machine That Made Us, hosted by
actor Stephen Fry. Filmed in June of 2007, it aired in April of 2008. Recent film efforts
can be seen on YouTube. Search for Casting Type with Stan Nelson, and for three other
titles. In the Fall of 2011 Stan was filmed casting type for an English production called The Link, made for the National Geographic Channel and aired in June 2012. Watch for several specialized books on these subjects in the next few years.