An invitation from Alix and Francis Meynell

It's not everyday you discover a party invitation from a legendary couple... but if I'm completely honest, my first thought on finding this card hidden inside one of my grandmother's old books was "Mmmm, nice border!"

Caption: A party invitation from the Meynells

My second thought was: "Francis MEYNELL????" 

And eventually: "My grandparents went to a party hosted by Alix and Francis Meynell?" 

Francis Meynell wrote the foreword to the first edition of Printing for Pleasure by John Ryder. He was a poet, typographer, book designer and proprietor of the Nonesuch Press, which published beautifully designed and affordable books. John Ryder wrote that the press "...became equally well known for its standard of scholarship and for the typographical excellence of its books". 

Alix Meynell was one of the most senior civil servants in the UK - responsible for introducing the utility furniture scheme during the second world war - and a pioneer who "enlarged the possibilities open to women both in the public and private spheres" (The Guardian).

Although Nonesuch Press books were produced by commercial printers, Francis Meynell designed his books and printed ephemera on an Albion Press. I'd love to think that the wonderful border on this invitation was printed by him... but there's no way to know for sure.

Caption: From Introduction to Printing by Herbert Simon

By coincidence, a couple of months later I found a familiar looking border on page 82 of Herbert Simon's book Introduction to Printing - the Craft of Letterpress. This was the work of Bert E. Smith and shows all six monotype border elements that are needed to make the final design.

Incidentally I worked out that this party would have taken place sometime in the early 1970s. At the time my grandparents lived just round the corner from the Meynells, in Lavenham, Suffolk.