Cool Undigitized Fonts

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Throughout THP publications, the “#” symbol following a type tradename indicates that it is known to be digitized at the current writing.

This page will soon be superseded by forums for discussion of history and revivals of pre-digital printing types. Active development of the “skeleton” is nearly complete.

Metal and wood letterpress type is becoming more scarce every year. Functional, maintainable equipment for printing it is becoming centralized by museums and regional historical societies.  One of the Top Priorities of the Type Heritage Project is to facilitate digital archival of as many pre-digitital typefaces as possible for study and use by “the rest of us.”

Typefaces that particularly interest THP are “job fonts” first introduced between c1800 and World War I (thereafter, design histories are relatively well documented), and specimens of them “belong in” the textbook series. Revivals of all pre-digital faces are eligible for sale at the THP Marketplace, and specimens are likewise available: letterpress (metal or wood), plus photo-lettering and/or transfer-type (many of these are actually revivals of much earlier designs).

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Suggestions for Revivals

When you see a pre-digital face that interests you, please coordinate your intentions with THP before you begin work. There are hundreds of cool ones awaiting revival—please let me help you to find the one(s) “right” for you:

  • I can advise you whether someone else has already “done” it (including free downloads).
  • I can help you to choose a face that you will enjoy spending time with as you work.
  • Avoid competition, (counter-productive!) duplication and just-plain waste of your precious time and talent!
  • With a bit of organization, efforts can be devoted to digitization of “new” oldies.

Perhaps the most influential curator of pre-digital fonts was Dan X. Solo [1928-2012], a key THP supporter. DXS was a photo-lettering giant who hunted and preserved some 6,000 metal or wood letterpress typefaces and published a series of Dover books illustrating full specimens of some 3,000.

Many of his Dover specimens may be previewed at the link below. Samples displayed by google.com rotate, so it’s wise to bookmark this page and revisit it from time to time: http://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=inauthor%3A%22Dan+X.+Solo%22

I own copies of these books and will gladly supply high-resolution scans. Just tell me the tradename and the book title (the same font is sometimes shown in more than one book with different tradenames).

A group of colleagues has compiled and regularly updates a database of fonts shown in the Solotype Catalog and the above-linked specimen books with existing revival sources. Please consult it before starting a project!
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Design patents are another useful source of specimens. I maintain a complete collection of free USPTO specimens dated from 1842-1915+. USPTO scans are native 300 DPI tiff files, page size 7.73 in × 11.38 in—the glyphs themselves are usually large enough to downsize and resample at higher resolution before vectorizing; another option is to print and re-scan them. Higher-resolution copies may be available for sale (response to my inquiry expected soon).

Many popular faces were not patented; some specimens (especially early ones) are nearly illegible, others are incomplete alphanumeric sets, and a few are missing altogether. When “hard-copy” specimens of complete character sets are not available for high-resolution scanning, pages excerpted from catalogs, advertisements, etc. may suffice. These materials, digitized by Google, Microsoft, university libraries and private collectors in PDF format, will be furnished on request.
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Intentions have been expressed for these faces: Aeolean/Aeolean Open, Tuscan Graille, Grolier

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2013-03-17 New Revivals:

Alpine#, Henry Schuenemann/Cleveland TF 1885
Danube#, History unknown (authentic art nouveau per Dan X. Solo)

2013-03-14 Two more revivals are complete:

Motto#, designer and cutter unattributed; Boston TF 1879
Artistic#=Belmont#, patented by Herman Ihlenburg and assigned to MSJ in 1886

2013-03-08 Recent Discoveries about DTF Mother Hubbard:

Wrong (again)! THP has recently learned that there was a very prominent Hubbard family in Boston and that Ludwig S. Ipsen designed bookplates (one of his specialties) for both Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Hubbard.

Possible Connections:

  • Mr. Hubbard was also an artist. In ±1841-1851, he and BTF Agent John K. Rogers belonged to the Boston Artists’ Association.
  • Rogers, who networked with Boston artists, knew both Hubbard and BTF staff type-cutter J.F. Cumming.
  • JFC worked for Rogers in 1881-1884 and may have known both Hubbard and Ipsen.
  • Ipsen may (well!) have designed unattributed faces for BTF in and before JFC’s employment. JFC may (well!) have introduced Ipsen to J.W. Phinney when he transferred from BTF to DTF (also in Boston) in 1884.
  • Ipsen may (well!) have designed unattributed designs cut by JFC for DTF and ATF Boston.

THP has recently matched the caps of Mother Hubbard# with a copy by the Eduard Scholz TF [Vienna] tradenamed Monopol# shown in Petzendorfer’s Schriftenatlas of c1903 (not in 1898). Scholz’s specimen does not illustrate the alternate letterforms nor the fabulous “floating” flourishes that THP Participants may have enabled for both print and web designers.

Furthermore, a dual-case version of Monopol# was “fonted” by George Williams (now primary author of FontForge, a powerful open-source free font editor) in 1994. Where the LC letterforms “came from” is unknown—THP correspondence with Mr. Williams some 10+ years ago is inconclusive.
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2013-02-19 A New “must” for the THP Wish-List!

Mother Hubbard—this quaint latin beauty with “drop-dead gorgeous” flourish options and multiple alternate letterforms is a super-challenge for the bravest revival developer… Dan X. Solo did not “collect” it, Petzendorfer did not feature it, and (despite DTF-distributor claims to the contrary) it was not patented; so no full alphanumeric specimen is known. According to William E. Loy, it was cut by John F. Cumming for DTF. Earliest specimens examined by THP date back to 1886.

THP Hunches:

  • It may (well!) have been designed by Ludwig. S. Ipsen: Check out this title page dated July 1889.
  • It may (well!) have been named for the first wife (Bertha [1861–1946]) of Elbert Hubbard [1856–1915], co-founder of The Roycrofters, a US Arts and Crafts group in Aurora, NY–with a “tongue in cheek” nod to the well-known nursery rhyme.

Generous revival developers have kindly (and enthusiastically!) responded to the plea for THP participation—big-time! Some of these fonts are intended only as illustrations for the THP textbook series; others may be available at the THP Marketplace (coming soon!). Besides Mother Hubbard#, the following fonts are in hand or in progress:

2013-02-18

Ornamented No. 33#=Gothic Double Shade#=Marble Heart#. Probably designed by Samuel S. Kilburn ­for BTF ≤1860.

2013-02-07

Gothic Tuscan Shaded No. 1#=Jackpot# (wood type), designer unknown. Shown by John G. Cooley c1850; probably introduced earlier by Edwin Allen [Kelly 125, 42].
Euclid Family#, multiple weights [Henry Scheunemann/Cleveland TF 1890].
Tangier#, designer unknown; patented by James M. Conner (with and without “filigree” background) in 1880-1881.
Heraldic#, designer unknown; patented by John K. Rogers in Mar-Oct 1880. Special thanks to Alan J. Prescott, who discovered a Dan X. Solo specimen not published by THP!

(2013-02-06):

Rounded Ornamented#=Abramesque# (2 versions!) [Calson TF c1844]
Aeolian
#=Aeolian Black# [Rudolph Gnichwitz/Keystone 1890]
Antique XX Condensed
#≈Bamberg# Caps [William Page 1859]
Bowl
# [Farmer ≤1887]
Cosmopolitan (Inland)=Nelson (Ludwig & Mayer) [Morgans Wilcox Mfg. Co. 1891, Kelly 158/160].
Crayon# [Herman Ihlenburg/MSJ 1886]
Ornamented No. 1528#=Cross Gothic# [Julius Herriett Sr./Bruce 1873]
Fashion#, Fashion Ornamented
# [Farmer ≤1887]
Hopkins# [wood, ~William Page]
Renaissant# (cut by Henry H. Brehmer/Dickinson 1879)=Artistic (light-face derivative cut by John F. Cumming/Dickinson ≤1888).
Ornamented 1053#=Rosella# [Henry Brehmer/Bruce 1876]
Ryan Jackson# [history unknown]
Komet# [Roos & Junge TF c1902
Tuscan Extended#=Staccato Wood# [William Page 1872, Kelly 133]
Thurston Roman# [beyond the scope of THP research]
Tirolean# [history unknown—French?]

Cosmopolitan=Nelson, 1891. This handsome free-form script has a fascinating history spanning from US wood type in 1891 to a German TF in 1894 to a patent by a US TF in 1895–1896. A revival was recently released by a developer not affiliated with THP.

Komet. This classy, sassy calligraphic sans was produced by the Roos & Junge TF of Offenbach in c1902 [Klingspor Museum]. Perhaps “ahead of its time,” it was not observed in advertisements published by Archiv für Buchgewerbe of the same period. It is shown in Petzendorfer’s Schriftenatlas of c1903.

The Fashion Family. A collection of five nice ‘n’ neat latin faces popularized during the 1870s; the ones shown here are Fashion Condensed and Fashion Ornamented. The prototype, Fashion, was patented  in 1876 by Andrew Little of the Farmer Little TF (New York). It was also shown by Farmer’s “kissin’ cousin,” the Cincinnati TF, which shared the same grandfather, Elihu White [1778–1831]. A.V. Haight designed Fashion Antique in 1887. Fashion Extra-Condensed was designed by Julius Herriet Jr. and advertised in The Inland Printer of September 1891.

Ornamented No. 1053=Rosella, 1876. This beauty—a personal favorite—is full of twist ‘n’ turn surprises! Designed by Henry Brehmer for the Bruce TF, it was known as “Ornamented No. 1053″ and nearly forgotten until Dan X. Solo found a “proper name” for it.

BTF Scored Fonts, 1879-1880. “Ordinary condensed gothic” [sans serif] caps with ornamemtal elements above and/or below. Single-Scored Gothic is simply underlined; Double-Scored Gothic and Legend [shown] offer banner-style joining and line finials.

Motto, 1879. Designer unknown, shown in the Boston Type Foundry’s 1880 catalog. This charmer is bestowed with plaque-like corners and screw-heads or scroll-style word spacers and line finials.

Albino, 1882. Motto’s wicked step-sister? Another “banner” style, this light-faced latin alphabet of the “runic” variety has knob-like word spacers and line finials.

Enchorial=London, 1884. This smashing bold concave sans was a triumph for the Caslon TF in 1884. J.F. Cumming cut a copy entitled London for BTF, probably the same year. An expanded derivative was shown in the Petzendorfer Schriftenatlas dated c1903.

Heraldic, 1880. Strong language! Patented by BTF Agent J.K. Rogers, the designer is unknown. Production and/or distribution rights to this face were granted to the Caslon TF c1881. Heraldic is especially interesting as a fatface with missal-style overtones characteristic of the late 1870s.

Ornamented No. 33=Gothic Double Shade=Marble Heart, Samuel S. Kilburn(?) ­≤1860. Check out the quaintly quirky “Q”! As reported by Lieberman [113] in 1967, McGrew [235] concurs that this all-caps beauty was “an 1870s face of the Boston Type Foundry.” After “giving up on” this lead, THP recently identified a dual-case specimen in BTF 1860. Assuming that Lieberman and McGrew were otherwise correct, it was almost certainly designed/cut by Kilburn (BTF ≤1835–1864), who specialized in “two-line” faces. It was shown soon after by Farmer (New York) in 1866, by Trowitzsch (Berlin) in 1868, and by MacKellar Smiths & Jordan (Philadelphia) in 1869. No specimen examined claims IP rights; BTF’s first design patent was issued in 1870. Apparently discontinued by BTF after 1879, it was revived as “Marble Heart” by ATF in 1933.

Old Bowery and Abramesque, Caslon ≤1841–c1844. These breezy British brats, originally called Rounded Open and Rounded Ornamented, have led interesting lives. As a teenager, Rounded Open visited the Bruce TF (c1854), where she was called Ornamented No. 1007. After a suspected Bruce facelift as Gothic Round Shaded (≤1869), she was reintroduced by ATF as Old Bowery in 1939. Her fanciful little sister (now called Abramesque) retired much earlier. They long to be reunited soon with their burly big brother, Rounded (an early “fill” font for multicolor work?), as a digital family!