THE fascinating history of a well-known former Bradford printing firm has been brought to life.

Charles Lubelski’s decision to explore the inner workings of Percy Lund Humphries - and the memories of those working within this fascinating industry - was prompted initially through study.

Charles tells how he was encouraged to write about the firm, one of only a few whose history, he believes, wasn’t largely documented, as part of an MA.

However, the more Charles discovered about the company, the more he explored the idea of actually writing a book about it and - at the age of 80 - decided he would prefer to document it in pages rather than for study.

In its heyday the company, according to Charles, was ‘one of the world’s great printing companies’ playing a central role in the development of fine art publications and cutting-edge printing technologies in the twentieth century.

Founded in 1895 it developed a reputation for the highest quality colour reproduction and creative typography and was popular among artists, typographers and designers.

Interestingly, Charles’s introduction to the company came not as an employee - he was an apprentice working at a printing firm within his then home city of Leeds - but through The Penrose Annual which Percy Lund Humphries printed.

Charles explains everyone in the printing trade was familiar with the Annual which, he explains, documented everything that was happening in the printing industry.

“It went all over the world,” recalls Charles, who now lives in Ripon.

The company which was based in Priestley Road, Bradford and also had a London office, was involved in many high profile publications.

According to Charles it printed brochures for high profile car companies, well-known auction houses, banks and building societies. It was also well known within the art world too.

Says Charles: “Its seminal publications of the work of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, for example, played no small part in securing their reputations internationally, while it introduced the British art public to the latest modernist painting, sculpture and architecture from the European continent and America.”

Charles describes the company’s commitment to the highest standards of printing and colour reproduction consistent with

experimental typography and design. They printed in over 80 languages including Chinese.

According to Charles, a huge number of books they produced are now collectors items.

He explains how the company’s quest for absolute perfection was the reason why they became in demand for producing such high quality documents.

“They were always experimental in their print,” says Charles, referring to the different typography.

During his extensive research, Charles also discovered the company’s secret work on the atom during the last world war.

According to a Telegraph and Argus report the company’s involvement was a result of the patent of a copper printing surface deposited on stainless steel which had been held by a Danish printing firm. When the Germans entered Denmark it was transferred to Mr Eric Humphries for protection. ICI approached him to see if it could be adapted for their purposes to develop a special perforated membrane which could be used as a filter. Lund Humphries staff worked in close co-operation with ICI and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The project was given top priority and 80 of the 500 staff at the printing works were switched from normal production to this special task.

Charles’ quest to find out more about what it was like to work for the firm prompted him to meet former employees at their regular meet-up at a working men’s club in Bradford.

“They were fantastic. They said it was the most wonderful firm; the companionship, the friendship - some of them had been there for 40 years,” says Charles.

“And the quality of work - they said everything had to be right. They had the best designers. It was always quality, quality, quality.”

Charles acknowledges the craftsmen and craftswomen, the inspired leadership, cooperative workplace teamwork and the pride taken in producing high quality products.

According to Charles, the introduction of digital technologies, globalisation, intense competition, financial crises, new digital technologies, and the Company’s unwillingness to compromise on quality inevitably forced Percy Lund Humphries to silence its presses in 1994.

“Pride Passion and Printing The Life & Times of Percy Lund Humphries The Country Press Bradford” is written by Charles Lubelski.

It is priced at £16.99 and can be purchased from Bradford Industrial Museum, 235 Moorside Road, Bradford, BD2 3HP. For more information call 01274 435900.