Skip to product information
1 of 1

Signpainters Don't Read Signs

Signpainters Don't Read Signs

Regular price £15.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £15.00 GBP
Sale Sold out
Tax included.

Reissue of Signpainters Don't Read Signs by Syl Ehr, an entertaining take on the sign game in 1957. The following is the original blurb.

Signpainters Don't Read Signs

Memories and Reflections on an Ancient Art

Do you believe in signs? Well, here's one that you can believe in:


With high good humor and a free-and-easy style, Syl Ehr here offers the harvest—anecdotal and otherwise—of forty-five years in the signpainters’ world of the swing stage and mahlstick. He made his debut as a signpainter at the age of twelve, when he painted SHOESHINE in eighteen-inch letters in shoe polish on the sidewalk outside a mortuary to draw attention to his shoeshine box, and at the same time aroused the ire of the mortician and drew the attention of the police.

Mr. Ehr's techniques have mellowed during the years, but his zest for what he calls “one of the most fascinating of the professions” is un- diminished. It is the only profession, he adds, in which the practitioners must literally know their business both forward and backward. ("After we have learned to make each letter of the various alphabets as it normally appears, we must learn to make them in reverse so that lettering that is done on the inside of a plate-glass window will read properly from the street.”)

The book also contains much pertinent and valuable information for the would-be signpainter, but mostly it’s a reservoir of reminiscences and unusual facts of interest to anyone, whether or not he knows a mahlstick from a yardstick.

"In my forty-five years in the business," Mr. Ehr writes, "I have never run across a signpainter who could spell." . . . “Ask any signpainter half an hour after he has painted a sign what it was that he lettered on it and it is a pretty safe bet that he can’t tell you. The reason for this is that a sign to a signpainter is just one letter after another." ... “Restaurants and butcher shops are bad for inside signs.” . . . Twenty-three-karat gold is used on gold leaf lettering, but “it is beaten so thin that an ounce is said to be able to cover an acre of ground." These are characteristic tidbits from Mr. Ehr’s store of lore.

And then, of course, there are his accounts of dealing with customers both disgruntled and gruntled, and the story of the mustard-eating cat who . . . but you’ll have to read that one yourself.

In short, here's a book by a man who has enjoyed his life’s work, whether working on a giant sign on a building wail or a tiny sign indoors, and is well able to communicate that enjoyment.


  • 125 x 202 mm (5 x 8 in)
  • Softcover, 160 pages
  • 160 g (5.6 oz)
  • First published 1957, this edition 2023

Note for EU Customers

This book is shipped from the UK. If your country charges a local value added tax on books then you will be required to pay this locally, in addition to any administrative charges from the delivery company.

View full details