Anthony Bessemer

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Anthony Bessemer (1758–1836[1] or after 1840[2]) was a British engineer and industrialist, who spent large portions of his life in the Netherlands and France before returning to live in London and Hertfordshire. His son was Sir Henry Bessemer, the inventor of the Bessemer process for steel manufacture.[3][4][5][6][7]

Born in London, Bessemer moved to the Netherlands as a boy with his family and lived there from 1777 to 1787, then moving to Paris.[2][6] As an engineer his work included draining machinery and microscope manufacture. With the upheaval of the French Revolution he returned to London.[6]

Bessemer acted as a punchcutter, an engraver of metal type, first for type foundries on the continent, then on returning to England for Henry Caslon (who was Henry Bessemer's godfather) and later for his own type foundry; according to Jeans his clients on the continent included the firm of Firmin Didot,[8] and he also sold a font to the Enschedé foundry in 1795.[2][9][10] In the course of his work for Caslon he testified by letter to the London Society of Arts in May 1818 on the topic of new anti-forgery precautions on banknotes, and this provides testimony on his work rate for the specific case of cutting 4pt punches: "the time required to engrave a diamond lower case alphabet and doubles, consisting of 33 punches, would be about six weeks, and that the same time would be required for a set of capitals of 28 punches."[11][12] Caslon testified that "at present there are only four or five persons in England who can execute diamond [4pt] type".[13][a]

Some years after returning to England, he set up a type foundry in Charlton, Hertfordshire with his business partner J.J. Catherwood (a former business partner of Caslon's), which later moved to London.[16][17]

Bessemer's son Henry was born while he lived in Charlton in 1813. Henry Bessemer took an early interest in his father's business and some of his early patents are for improved type-casting machinery.[15][18] Bessemer auctioned his foundry in 1832.[15][19][20][b] It had been assumed that he retired at this point; however Brazilian historian Orlando da Costa Ferreira proposed in the 1970s that Bessemer was the type-founder invited by the Brazilian government to set up a type foundry, who arrived there in October 1837.[10] The project proved uneconomical: the government paid the founder compensation in October 1840 and he left in November, the year before his four-year contract was due to expire.[10] Edna Lucia Cunha Lima, however, doubts that Bessemer is the type-founder in question, noting that Bessemer was quite elderly at this time and that the typefounder apparently required an interpreter to help understand French, something unlikely to be necessary for Bessemer who had lived in France.[22]

A reprint of his specimen of 1830 has been published by the British Printing Historical Society.[18]


  1. ^ Bessemer is mentioned in Hansard's Typographia using this spelling, but the cutting of a diamond-size font for Caslon is credited to a Mr Bessimer, who is listed separately in the index.[14] Reed (1887) concluded that this was a misprint and that the two were likely one and the same.[15]
  2. ^ Reed had access to a sale catalogue, which unfortunately no longer survives.[21]


  1. ^ "Anthony Bessemer". Grace's Guide to British Industrial History.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ a b c Lane, John A.; Lommen, Matthieu (1998). Dutch typefounders' specimens. 's-Gravenhage: Nijhoff. pp. 61–64. ISBN 9789070386948.
  3. ^ Burton 2015, pp. 138–141.
  4. ^ Hendrickson 2014, pp. 91–92.
  5. ^ Lee 1901, pp. 185–186.
  6. ^ a b c Bessemer 1905.
  7. ^ "Sir Henry Bessemer's Connection with Printing". The Printing Times and Lithographer: 226–7. 1880.
  8. ^ Jeans 1884, pp. 10–18.
  9. ^ Mosley, James. "The Typefoundry of Vincent Figgins, 1792–1836". Motif (1): 29–36.
  10. ^ a b c Enschedé, Charles (1978). Carter, Harry (ed.). Typefoundries in the Netherlands, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century: a history based mainly on material in the collection of Joh. Enschedé en Zonen at Haarlem (2nd ed.). Haarlem: Stichting Museum Enschedé. p. 409. ISBN 9789070024130.
  11. ^ Report of the Committee of the Society of Arts (etc.) Together with the Approved Communications and Evidence Upon the Same, Relative to the Mode of Preventing the Forgery of Bank Notes. 1819. pp. 68–9.
  12. ^ Wolpe 1967, pp. 27–29.
  13. ^ Nash 2004, pp. 55–70.
  14. ^ Hansard 1825, pp. 253–254, 361, 382.
  15. ^ a b c Reed 1887.
  16. ^ "No. 18239". The London Gazette. 18 April 1826. p. 913.
  17. ^ "No. 18500". The London Gazette. 29 August 1828. p. 1638.
  18. ^ a b "A. Bessemer's Specimen of Printing Types, 1830". Journal of the Printing Historical Society. 5. 1969.
  19. ^ De Vinne 1899, pp. 101–102.
  20. ^ Gray 1938, p. 114.
  21. ^ Mosley, James (1984). British type specimens before 1831: a hand-list. Oxford Bibliographical Society, Bodleian Library in association with the Dept. of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading. p. 58. ISBN 9780901420114.
  22. ^ Edna Lucia Cunha Lima. "50 Anos de Fundição de Tipos na Imprensa Nacional (1810–1860)" (PDF). I Seminário Brasileiro sobre Livro e História Editorial. Retrieved 22 December 2019.