The Printer’s Tray

printer's trayBack in the old days (I’m talking really old – older than me – long before computers, one might even say ‘back in ancient times’), newspapers were printed by taking small blocks of metal, each of which had a letter embossed in the bottom, and laying these blocks side by side in a tray to form words and sentences. The blocks were wedged together, inked, and the paper quite literally ‘stamped’.

As you can imagine, setting type must have been a time consuming business. So to speed things up it was essential that these little metal blocks were organised. And so they were. They were kept in specially made drawers – trays – which themselves were divided into sections.

What happened to these trays once the world went computerised? Well, most were cast to one side. Some were probably chopped up to make firewood. Others are probably on a landfill site somewhere. A few, however, ended up being sold at boot fairs, and antique markets, and on eBay. I’ve just done a search and found 193 on sale, for about a tenner each.

And why should you care?

Printer’s trays are absolutely perfect for all those things you’d like to pin to your trophy board, but can’t. Get yourself a tray, clean it up with wire wool, then screw it to the wall, and pretty soon you’ll have something like the one pictured (click the pic for a closer look).

Unlike the photos and the trophy, the items in the printer’s tray tend to stay in the same place year after year with only the occasional purge or addition. But that’s just me. I can’t even remember the significance of some of the items in the tray, but in a way I kinda like that. Like there’s a memory there that’s locked away and could only be retrieved by a particularly gifted hypnotist or psychic.

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