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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Type Specimens

page 118

Type Specimens

Do printers generally preserve the costly type specimen sheets received from the founders? We doubt it. Do the founders intend or expect that these sheets should be so preserved? We are not sure that they do. If they did, they would so arrange that to keep them in an orderly manner would present no difficulty. By the present want of system, much unnecessary expense is incurred by the founders, and much unnecessary trouble to printers. We have a suggestion to offer that if carried out would be of benefit to both parties; and as all the typefounders read Typo, we hope they will give it their consideration.

We have a collection of type specimens extending over a period of more than twenty years. As the original loose sheets are superseded by bound volumes, we put them away; but many of the older specimens are not so superseded. For the past three years, these sheets have been accumulating very rapidly; and we find that their preservation, in an orderly fashion, is no easy matter. We refer frequently to them for purposes of comparison, and often require to put our hand at once on a given sheet to show to some visiting printer who takes an interest in such matters; and no system of arrangement that we have attempted is satisfactory. One difficulty arises from the fact that two systems are advisable while one only is possible; but the chief obstacle is the varying sizes of the sheets, which is fatal to any systematic arrangement.

The first system of arrangement is according to the manufacturers. By this plan, the bound volumes would be supplemented by portfolios, each representing a foundry or group of foundries, but altogether miscellaneous in their contents, containing every variety of type from borders to poster founts. The other kind of classification is by subjects. Body-founts would constitute one group, ornamental letters a second, borders a third, initials and vignettes a fourth, and so on. And where there is a large quantity of specimens, this plan is the best.

But neither arrangement can be carried out while such irregularities exist in the size of the sheets. A parcel of specimens from a single house—especially from Germany—may contain all sizes from great folded broadsheets down to slips not bigger than a large card, defying all attempts at binding, filing, or placing in portfolios.

The printer who does not receive German specimens has no idea of the formidable size of some of the the sheets. They are on the finest plate-paper, magnificently printed—sometimes in half-a-dozen colors—and exhibit an amount of patient labor and artistic skill that s amazing. We have measured some of these sheets. Schelter & Giesecke's specimen, 23 x 15 inches, issued by us as a supplement last year, is small in comparison with others. Klinkhardt's specimen of his beautiful ribbon (which we have had often had to unfold for reference), is 25 x 19; we have a border specimen by Gronau 26½ X 22; border and script specimens by Ludwig & Meyer, 30 x 21½; and we are not sure that even these are the largest.

Beautiful and admirable as these are, we think the labor upon them is to a great extent thrown away. In actual practical work, no printer would select one of the delicate borders thus exhibited for a five- or six-color job on a sheet three feet by two. And how is he expected to keep the specimen? Paste it on his wall in the ordinary composing-room fashion? If so it will look very well until the devil covers it up with a circus-bill or cuttings from illustrated papers. If it is folded and re-folded, it soon breaks apart in the creases, for plate-paper has no fibre. And it should be remembered that the more intricate combinations are practically useless without the founder's specimen as a guide to the compositor.

Most of the founders' sheets are produced with a view to ultimately taking their place in the bound specimen-books; but for this purpose the great folding sheets are unsuited. A few years ago, quarto specimen-books were the fashion; most founders now send out various sizes of octavo; but the original specimens of new designs exhibit as much variety as ever.

We would suggest a uniform size of demy-quarto = ll¼ x 9 inches (or 28½ x 22 cm, continental measurement). There are many reasons in favor of this size. Anything smaller will not fairly display the more elaborate combinations or the larger sizes of job-letter. It is large enough, for any eomp with ordinary « gumption » could develop a demy-quarto border into a demy-folio, when required. If the design required a great deal of illustration, one sheet might be devoted to synopsis of characters, and any number to developments in black or colors. Great expense and labor in composition would be saved, and a handy size secured for reference.

The quarto size has many advantages possessed by no other. Most of the trade journals are quarto, and there is an increasing practice of sending electrotyped specimen pages to these papers as advertisements. When separately issued as supplements they bind in without folding. All the « specimen exchanges » adopt this size, which is the most in use for artistically ornamented circulars. But the great advantage would be the systematic uniformity secured—an advantage both to founder and printer.

If the founder adopted this suggestion, the careful printer would have little need of bound specimen-books. He could bind up the sheets at stated intervals in any order he chose. With duplicate specimens, he could form an ideal collection—one under the names of the founders; the other classified into body-founts, plain job-founts, scripts, ornaments, &c, from as many houses as supplied the sheets. For purposes of comparison, the latter would be invaluable.

Some of our home contemporaries complain that the English founders do not (like the Americans) page their specimen-books. We do not think the paging is worth the extra trouble involved. In a bound volume, the types must be arranged not chronologically in order of production, but in classes; and the American system of publishing small specimen-books of irregular sizes, at short intervals, is not, to our mind, a good one. A quarto page can be readily electrotyped and kept permanently on hand for future editions. If paging is required, the book could, however, be arranged in sections, something in this style: Body-founts, A 1, 2, &c; two-line letters and titlings, B 1, 2; plain job founts, C; ornamental, D; scripts, E; accents, Greeks, music, &c, F; Borders, G; Initials, H; Vignettes, I; trade-cuts, K; brass-rules, L. Separate sections could then be bound in paper covers, so that the printer requiring say body-fount specimens or book-work ornaments would send for section A or I, and need not have the entire volume.

In the case of the synopsis of a combination border, Bruce's excellent plan deserves to be generally adopted. At the foot of the page, he sets forth, for example: « The smallest fount, 7½lb, contains: 50 each of Nos. 3 and 20; 17 each of 8 and 18; 8 of 1, 2, 4 to 7, 9 to 17, 19, and 21; 4 of 22 to 39, and also quads. » This enables the printer in ordering to adapt the fount exactly to his requirements. For instance, the most striking part of the combination in use, as shown in the book, may be a border composed of characters No. 18. He finds that about 140 of these pieces are used, and looking at the memorandum, he sees that 17 only are supplied. To obtain this number in proportion to the rest, eight complete founts would be required; but he does not want 601b of the combination. Looking through the synopsis, he sees that No. 2 will also by itself make a very neat border; but the memorandum shows him that only 8 pieces of No. 2 are supplied. So he makes out his order thus: « 7½lb fount of border No. —, with the following extra sorts: 1lb No. 2, 21b No. 18 » —and by obtaining 10½lb instead of 7½lb, he increases the usefulness of the combination tenfold. The memorandum is also useful page 119when sorts run out, and the compositor can at once ascertain whether or not they are standing in some other job.

One other good thing founders sometimes do, but not always—enclose a specimen sheet printed on thin paper with the fount itself, for use in the composing-room. This should never be omitted. The costly original specimens may travel far and wide and bring in little return, but the thin sheet costs a mere fraction, and goes only to those who actually buy the type, and intend to use it.