“Innovations, being prepared over a long period of time, remained dormant for the most part, undiscovered and misunderstood, only to suddenly awaken, providing a characteristic expression for an entire century.” ((Friedl, Fredrich. The Univers by Adrian Frutiger. Translated by Katja Steiner and Bruce Almberg. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag form GmbH, 1998.)) — Fredrich Friedl The development of the typographic sans serif follows a path of revival and renewal from a […] Read more – ‘Unit Gothic & Uniform Set Gothic: wood type as precursor’.
The shaded, chamfered sans serif design named Chromatic Gothic Paneled was first shown as a two-color chromatic ((Chromatic types were designed to print a letterform in two or more colors simultaneously. These types, produced in register as corresponding pairs, were designed so that when printed one color would overlap another in certain places to create a third color. Chromatic types were shown regularly in foundry type specimen books of […] Read more – ‘Chromatic Gothic Paneled’.
The personal collection of specimen catalogs, periodicals, and ephemera belonging to the multi-talented Nicholas Joseph Werner (1858–1940) is held by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at St. Louis Public Library in the Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection. Werner began his work as a printer in 1873 in Atchison, Kansas at the age of fifteen. He became a compositor at the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis in 1882 and […] Read more – ‘The Nicholas J. Werner Typographic Collection’.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Rob Roy Kelly’s pioneering text American Wood Type 1828–1900, Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. The book was officially published on 13 October 1969. American Wood Type: 1828–1900, Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. / by Rob Roy Kelly. […] Read more – ‘50th Anniversary of Kelly’s American Wood Type: 1828–1900’.
No 672 and No 673 were the official, if unimaginative, names used for two patented designs cut exclusively by The Hamilton Mfg Co. Both No 672 (USD 37,308) and No 673 (USD 37,309) were patented on January 31, 1905, after being submitted for review on November 17, 1904. Perhaps most interesting is that both patents were filed by HP Hamilton but not assigned to The Hamilton Mfg Co. Henry […] Read more – ‘The Hamilton Mfg Co’s No 672 & No 673’.
Creative Wood Type & Engraving Co appeared in three New York City Directories 1942–1944. In 1942 and 1943 the company was listed at 71 Park Place, and in 1944 was listed at 71 Park Place and (just around the corner) at 261 Greenwich Street. The address included on the only known specimen printed by the company listed the address at 119 West 23rd Street in Manhattan. The broadside measures 14 […] Read more – ‘A newly discovered American manufacturer’.
In the spring of 2017, Bill Moran at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Museum invited me to write an article on a topic of my choosing (always an enticing offer) for their website’s blog to be of general interest to their members (always a daunting task). I decided to focus on a particular design that acted as a through-line to several of my typographic interests, Read more – ‘Antique Tuscans in America’.
This is a first attempt on my part to compile (and make available) a comprehensive list of wood type specimen catalogs (( There are a number of other useful compiled lists available online, including: Ralf Herrmann’s post “Type Specimens Online” provides a number of useful digital links. https://typography.guru/forums/topic/44-type-specimens-online/ Dr. David M. MacMillan’s “Foundry Specimens & Typography” page at Circuitous Root provides an exhaustive list of founders and manufacturers. http://www.circuitousroot.com/artifice/letters/press/noncomptype/typography/index.html)) that currently exists […] Read more – ‘A (working) hand-list of available wood type specimen catalog facsimiles and digital copies’.
The Italian, one of the earliest non-ornamental display types, was first shown in the 1821 type specimen book of Caslon & Catherwood. The face can be quickly identified by the reversal of stress in the characters strokes. The traditionally thick vertical strokes in the roman character have been made thin and the thin horizontal strokes have been made thick. This type form represents a novel, if not radical, visual break […] Read more – ‘A short history of the Italian’.
Aldine & Aldine Ornamented were patented by William H Page — and assigned to William H Page & Co — on March 15, 1870, (US Design No 3,905). The plain face Aldine was first shown April 1870, in Marder, Luce & Co’s quarterly The Chicago Specimen ((Marder, Luce & Co. The Chicago Specimen 4, no. 2 (April, 1870).)). Both Aldine and Aldine Ornamented were shown by William H Page & […] Read more – ‘Aldine & Aldine Ornamented’.
William Hamilton Page was born in Tilton, New Hampshire on March 14, 1829, to James and Jane Greenleaf Page. Page spent his childhood on a farm in the Connecticut River Valley and over the course of his adult life would become arguably the most influential American wood type manufacturer of the nineteenth century. In 1843 at the age of 14, Page started work as a printer’s apprentice in Bradford, Vermont. […] Read more – ‘William Hamilton Page’.
Expanded No 1, No 2, and No 3 were three wood types released by Wm H Page & Co and first shown in the company’s April 1867 specimen catalog. The faces were each embellished variations of Antique Tuscan Expanded that Page & Co had first listed on their 1865 published price list. The design is slightly more condensed than Antique Tuscan Extended which Page & Co showed in their May […] Read more – ‘Expanded No 1, No 2, and No 3’.
Unique was patented by William H Page — and assigned to William H Page & Co — on March 15, 1870, (US Design No 3,901). The type was first shown in James Conner’s Sons Typographic Messinger, Vol 5, No 2 (April, 1870). The sales copy for the advertisement read: “The specimens of “Unique” shown in this number, are of a style so elegant and tasteful in its design that the series […] Read more – ‘Unique’.
Charles Henry Tubbs, a type maker for William Page and a founding partner of the American Wood Type Co, was born January 13, 1842, in New York City to Joseph Tubbs and Jane Sloat. When ill health caused Joseph Tubbs, a brick and stone mason, to retire from his successful contractor and building business in New York City, he moved the family to a farm between Lisbon and Hanover, Connecticut. […] Read more – ‘Charles Henry Tubbs’.
In his 1964 American Wood Types folio, Rob Roy Kelly published 15 manufacturer’s stamps, with dates of use, and included an explanation of the stamping process. Five years later he would use this explanation to accompany 16 manufacturer’s stamps in his book American Wood Type 1828–1900. Robert Long published Wood Type & Printing Collectibles in 1980 that showed 11 American manufacturer’s stamps, two of which had not been previously shown by […] Read more – ‘A bibliographic catalog of American wood type manufacturer’s stamps’.
The pin mark, a circular depression left on the side of the body of metal foundry type, was often produced as an artifact of the drag pin during casting. This area provided a “convenient place for the typefounder to engrave an identifying trade mark which would therefore be cast into the type.” ((David MacMillan’s erudite account of foundry pin marks can be found at his excellent web site Circuitous Root […] Read more – ‘Manufacturer’s Stamps’.
In the early 15th century in Florence, Italy an inscriptional letterform was developed in contrast to the existing Gothic and Romanesque forms that would lead to a revival of the classical Roman by the end of the century. By the end of the 14th century the early Renaissance scholars—Petrach and Niccoli—began looking back to Carolingian manuscript forms for inspiration as they transcribed classical texts. This work strongly influenced architects and […] Read more – ‘Revivals of revivals’.
In 1964, Rob Roy Kelly, noted design educator, collector, and historian published a limited edition folio of the wood types he had collected over the previous eight years. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the publishing of this important work. The folio, hand printed by Rob Roy Kelly (1925–2004) in an edition of 45, was well received and quickly sold to private collectors and notable archives. Ruari McLean, the respected […] Read more – ‘American Wood Types Folio (1964)’.
Kelly, Rob Roy. Wood type; specimens of nineteenth-century American wood type with introductory notes. Kansas City, Mo: Rob Roy Kelly, 1964. Print. Issued in a tan buckram covered solander box with printed paper label on front cover, titled: Wood type; specimens of nineteenth-century American wood type with introductory notes. Consists of introductory notes and index bound in printed paper wrappers with black plastic spiral spine titled: American Wood Types 1828–1900, Volume […] Read more – ‘A hand list of Kelly’s 1964 folio’.
George Case Setchell was born December 17, 1838 in Norwich, Connecticut to William Kelly Setchell and Maria E. Case. He was a skilled type cutter and a keen inventor, who perfected the die-cut method of wood border manufacture in the late 1870s, and, in collaboration with William H. Page, the die-cut method of wood type manufacture in the late 1880s. Setchell spent his childhood and most of his adult life in […] Read more – ‘George Case Setchell’.
Ebenezer Russell Webb was born October 10, 1811 in Onondaga, New York—just south of Syracuse—to Judson Webb & Jerusha Truesdell. E.R. Webb married Charlotte Castle (c1812—1899) on May 23, 1832 in Syracuse, New York. The couple had one child, a daughter, Mary E. Webb [Bunker] (c1833–1912). The family lived at 247 Bridge Street in Brooklyn for nearly twenty years starting in 1843. Webb worked as a printer in his […] Read more – ‘E. R. Webb’.
A previously unrecorded Hamilton & Katz catalog Specimens of Holly Wood Type, Borders, Reglets and Furniture was donated to the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection in March, 2014 by William Andrews of the Challenger Press in Brockport, New York. Before this new catalog came to light there were only two known and recorded Hamilton & Katz type specimen catalogs held in American archives. In the best of circumstances a specimen […] Read more – ‘Upon discovering a new wood type specimen catalog’.
William Thomas Morgans, was one of the dominate producers and innovators of wood type in American in the late 1870s, competing successfully against William Page, Vanderburgh, Wells & Co and Charles Tubbs. He was born July 2, 1844 ((Rob Roy Kelly indicates Morgans’ birth year as 1843 in American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. New York: Van […] Read more – ‘“Billy Morgans—the boss typo of the County…”’.
A recent visit to the Kembel Collection at the California Historical Society in San Fransisco allowed for a perusing of issues of The Printer and Bookmaker. This examination led to serendipitously stumbling upon an obscure reference, which led to a fortuitous Google search, offering up a typographic curiosity. It should be noted that research is often most fruitful when performed tangentiality. The following was published in the May, 1897 issue of The Printer and […] Read more – ‘Glass type’.
The following entry was originally published in the May, 1897 issue of The Printer and Bookmaker ((The Printer and Bookmaker (New York: Howard Lockwood & Co, 1897), vol 24, no 3. “Patent Leather Type.” p 117–118)). The letter to the editor from a Mr George Jacobs describes a unique method of producing large scale printing type. Though patent leather was invented in Brussels in the late 1700’s and commercially produced in America starting […] Read more – ‘Patent Leather Type’.
On January 2, 2014 Jim DeLittle passed away peacefully at his home in Fulford just south of York, England after a long illness. He was 78. Mr DeLittle, grandson of the founder, was the last owner and operator of the last wood type manufacturer in England. The DeLittle company was founded in 1888 by Robert Duncan DeLittle as the R D DeLittle “Eboracum” Letter Factory. The wood type manufacturer was […] Read more – ‘Robert James DeLittle’.
Heber Wells, born January 25, 1835 near Bleeker Street in New York City to Darius and Almira Waters Wells. Heber was the youngest son of Darius Wells—the first manufacturer of wood type. He was also an industrious and honest business man, a courageous soldier in the Union army and an active philanthropic member of his community. Though born in New York City, Wells spent most of his life in Paterson, New […] Read more – ‘Heber Wells’.
George Fash Nesbitt was born January 13, 1809 in New York City to James Nesbitt and Maria Carolina Fash. Nesbit apprenticed as a printer under his uncle Joseph C Spear. Upon his uncle’s death in 1828, George Nesbitt assumed control of his uncle’s thirty-three year old printing business. By 1831, the business was operating under the name of George F Nesbitt at 117 Water Street in New York City, and […] Read more – ‘George F Nesbitt’.
Spending the week at libraries tracking down American wood type manufacturer’s specimen books. On the docket are Houghton Library at Harvard University in Boston, the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, and the Connecticut Historical Society Library in Hartford. All archives seem promising with previously unrecorded specimen materials. To-date there has been no comprehensive listing of all wood type designs manufactured — or a bibliography compiled of manufacturer’s catalogs — over the […] Read more – ‘A week at the library’.
The following entry was originally published in the 1889 edition of Johnson’s (Revised) Univeral Cyclopædia: a scientific and popular treasury of useful knowledge ((Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard and Arnold Guyot, eds., Johnson’s (Revised) Univeral Cyclopædia:a scientific and popular treasury of useful knowledge (New York: A.J. Johnson & Co, 1889), 6, s.v. “Printing–Wood Type.” p 440)). The last sentence of the entry is most curious in that it describes an apparently efficient—if utterly unique—process of wood […] Read more – ‘A most curious process’.
American Wood Type Mfg Co published it’s Catalog No 36 in 1936. Their primary business address was listed as 270 Lafayette Street, New York and the secondary address listed as 608 Dearborn Street, Chicago. The specimen book interior is printed in black ink on off-white uncoated stock, with a 2-color cover that is slightly heavier than the interior stock. The catalog measures 10¼ × 13¾″ and is thirty-six saddle-stitched pages […] Read more – ‘Catalog No 36’.
On page 62 of American Wood Type 1828–1900 ((American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969.)) Rob Roy Kelly makes a passing reference to the existence of several wood type manufacturers using the name American Wood Type. Kelly’s text only detailed the one manufacturer working in the 19th century. The nineteenth century American […] Read more – ‘American Wood Type Mfg Co’.
Rob Roy Kelly’s seminal American Wood Type 1828–1900 ((American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969.)) focuses solely on the nineteenth century. Other than a sidelong reference to Allied Wood Type Mfg Co in incorrectly attributed images on pages 160 and 161 and a passing reference to the American Wood Type Mfg […] Read more – ‘ACME Wood Type & Mfg Co’.
On page 160 and 161 of American Wood Type: 1828–1900 Rob Roy Kelly shows types attributed to Allied Wood Type Manufacturing Company. The samples show cropped specimens of Mode, Stymie, Corvinus Skyline, and Fashion Gothic though all are unfortunately mislabeled and Kelly includes no further attribution or date information, nor does he discuss Allied on any of the corresponding pages. In the 2007 New Vintage Type: Classic Fonts for the Digital […] Read more – ‘Allied Wood Type Mfg Co’.
James Edward Hamilton was born May 19, 1852 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin to Henry Carter and Diantha Smith Hamilton. He established the Hamilton Holly Wood Type Co in 1880, the same year he married Etta Shove, who helped develop the wood type business after their wedding on August 5. Hamilton developed a method for manufacturing wood type that came to been known as the veneer method. Cutting the letter design from a thin […] Read more – ‘J E Hamilton’.
In American Wood Type 1828–1900, Rob Roy Kelly writes the history of the major American wood type manufacturers of the nineteenth century. He describes James Hamilton as an “aggressive businessman” buying out his competition starting with the William H. Page Wood Type Co in 1891. While true—the sale was finalized on January 4, 1891—Kelly simplifies the subtleties of the situation. Hamilton started his business in 1880, and by 1887 was undercutting the competition […] Read more – ‘“The Wood Type business should go West…” An 1887 letter from William H. Page to W.B. Baker’.
The following entry was originally published in John Luther Ringwalt’s 1871 American Encyclopedia of Printing ((Ringwalt, John Luther. American Encyclopædia of Printing. Philadelphia: Menamin & Rinwalt, 1871. pg 502–503)). Ringwalt describes the early production process employed by Darius Wells, the first wood type manufacturer, and details an important distinction between the wood type templates of William Leavenworth and those of Edwin Allen. Most interestingly Ringwalt explicitly names the first recorded competitor to Darius Well in 1830. Wood Type […] Read more – ‘Type made of wood.’.
Identifying the manufacturers and clarifying, as precisely as possible, the origin of the designs of the types in the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection has been an important component of my ongoing research into nineteenth century typographic form. One of my active projects has been the assignment of unattributed types to particular manufacturers and the clarification of their histories through physical and visual research. Fixing a type’s origins is […] Read more – ‘Planing patterns and sleuthing origins’.
The intention of starting this blog is to develop a platform to record threads of ongoing inquiries, partially formulated ideas, bits of new discoveries and observations of the world through the filter of my research into nineteenth century and twentieth century wood type. I’ll be including notes on histories of particular type designs, texts regarding wood type manufacturers from nineteenth century sources, images from my research as well as details concerning previously […] Read more – ‘Starting a research blog’.