MAJOR FOUNDRIES (METAL, DIGITAL, & OTHER)
OF THE PAST CENTURY posted: 12/29/15; last update 6/17/18 (Typositor)
OTHER METAL FOUNDRIES posted: 12/31/15; last update 7/21/16
OTHER NOTABLE DIGITAL FOUNDRIES posted: 3/19/17
MAJOR FOUNDRIES (METAL, DIGITAL, & OTHER)
OF THE PAST CENTURY
Adobe ranks with the greatest foundries in the history of type, and has reissued many classic metal typefaces, so their specimen books are very, very useful even for metal type.
Monotype, too, has always been in the first rank. With the exception of Adobe, Monotype’s digital type operation has absorbed all the other major digital foundries, including, in 2006, Linotype. Monotype’s digital offerings thus carry on many of the finest typefaces of the metal era.
There were actually two Monotype companies: the original American Monotype company, sometimes referred to as “Lanston Monotype”, and the British Monotype company, often referred to as just “Monotype”, though the company’s official name included the word “Lanston”. The nomenclature can be very confusing. In typographic literature, it is not always clear which firm is being referred to, though it’s usually the British company, which was the more important as far as type designs go.
Linotype was a leading force in type design in the twentieth century. Linotype did not make hand-set type, but they did issue their own versions of many important hand-set and Monotype faces. Later on, many of these were issued as digital fonts. Linotype’s 1989 specimen book, covering pre-PostScript digital fonts, is still often the first type book I reach for. It can’t be compared to McGrew as a resource for metal type, but it’s thorough, portable, and has full and sharply reproduced specimens, and ever since it came out I’ve had it at hand whenever I work with type. Linotype continued as an important source of high-quality digital fonts, and still exists as a distinct brand under Monotype’s ownership. MCBA’s library has at least one specimen book of Linotype’s hot metal faces.
ATF (AMERICAN TYPE FOUNDERS)
Farther back, ATF is virtually synonymous with hand-set type in America in the twentieth century. Linotype and Monotype, by about 1900, were taking over the market for the typesetting of long passages of text. (Monotype was favored for books, Linotype for newspapers and magazines.) This, along with other factors, drove the foundries producing hand-set type to consolidation, and the result was ATF. Display and advertising typography became the main use of hand-set type in the twentieth century, until the advent of phototypesetting in the 1960s.
Ludlow was the maker of a typecasting system widely used for display type. They were a notable source of fine typeface designs, employing Robert Hunter Middleton as designer. (Approximate timespan: early 1930s to 1960s.)
NOTE: different foundries often had different “cuts” of the same face.
There are often slight differences in appearance between Linotype, Monotype, and handset versions of the same face, due to the peculiarities and limitations of each technology. Digital re-issues of these faces tended to just reproduce exactly the peculiarities of whichever version of the font was used for digitization. Newer versions of some of these fonts have since been made, presumably eliminating any design concessions made to the constraints of earlier technologies.
In addition, metal foundries typically made modifications in their fonts for best readability in different size ranges. Thus, a 10-point “master” might be used for, say, fonts from 9 to 12 points, while a 6-point master was used for smaller sizes, and so on. When digital fonts were made from metal faces, different master sizes might be used as originals by different foundries, which carried forward slightly different letterforms into the digital fonts. In the 1980s and 1990s, only a single master was normally used to make a digital font, which was then set at whatever size was required by the job at hand, from 5-point “mouse type” to huge display type that might then be blown up to billboard size. This sacrificed the fine visual adjustment of letterforms to meet the different requirements of different size ranges.
For a long time after the advent of digital type, it was a dream among digital foundries, type designers, and typographers to develop some computerized method for generating, from a single font, modifications appropriate for different size ranges. In the mid-1990s, Adobe’s much-heralded Multiple Master fonts (they had “MM” in the font name) attempted to meet this desire. But Multiple Master fonts caused many technical problems in production, and they soon dropped out of use by knowledgeable typographers. Even designers learned not to specify them.
Since about 2000, major foundries, notably Adobe, have once again begun designing separate modifications, within the same typeface family, for use at different size ranges. These modifications correspond to the old “masters” but are handled in production in the same way as are different weights of the face. These typeface families thus have many more modifications than did the typical typeface families of the 1900s, which might have two or three weights, with italics for each. An example of a font family with a range of modifications for different sizes is Adobe’s Arno Pro family. This was in the very fine set of fonts that were (and for all I know, still are) included for free with Adobe Creative Suite.
The following producers of photo-type fonts are also of some interest; they were important in the industry in the latter half of the 1900s:
The VGC Phototypositor machine, commonly referred to as the “Typositor”, succeeded Ludlow as the standard for display type production, and was in common use from the 1960s until the very early 1990s. I have no definite dates, but it looks like VGC began business in 1964 or ’65. The latest catalog of theirs that I know of was the 1990 book, which showed the same faces as the 1988 book.
A relatively simple machine, the Typositor used long strips of film, with full alphabets in negative, one film reel to a font, to expose strips of photo paper, one letter at a time. It allowed production of the fine letterspacing required for quality display work. The image could be enlarged and othrwise transformed optically.
This was before the days of the WYSIWYG computer screen displays that came in with desktop systems. Once those became prevalent, Typositor was used mainly for legacy work, for consistency with pre-desktop work. I last saw it in use in 1993 or ’94. By mid 1994, we had ditched the Typositor machines at that shop.
It was relatively easy to produce quality Typositor fonts photographically from printed specimens, which enabled VGC to introduce some original display faces, and to revive many old display faces as Typositor fonts. VGC (Visual Graphics Corp.) was the primary supplier (as far as I know, the only quality supplier) of Typositor fonts.
The only other supplier of Typositor fonts that I know of was Castcraft of Chicago, commonly referred to as “Chicago”. They were notorious for producing cheap and shoddy knock-offs, under bogus names, of just about every typeface then in existence, including many old display faces.
Later on, in the desktop era, Chicago issued a great many of them as Postscript fonts, under the name of Optifonts. Like Chicago’s Typositor fonts, their digital fonts caused frequent production problems. (In their marketing material, Chicago boasted that they could go from a printed original to a digital font in one hour. The resulting messy vector outlines were a factor in the production problems.) But the fonts were everywhere, because they were cheap and because Chicago offered so many different faces, including some old ones not otherwise available. The designers who specified them doubtless did not know that better versions were often available elsewhere; those who knew were mostly incapable of finding the better fonts.
A famous display photo-typesetting shop in New York City, which used its own proprietary machines and fonts, and employed highly skilled people to design their fonts and set their type. They also specialized in optical modifications of their type. They revived many old display faces, and created many new ones. Many of these faces were later produced as digital fonts, and are still available.
Photo-Lettering’s major catalogs were a study in the visual possibilities of display type. Their most commonly seen catalog was the desk edition: Photo-Lettering’s One-Line Manual of Styles, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold. (The latest copyright date on my copy is 1971.) This book also functioned as an index to their Alphabet Thesaurus, published in three large hardcover volumes, which gave more extensive showings of the faces and optical modifications. Photo-Lettering also issued annual yearbooks showing new fonts.
OTHER METAL FOUNDRIES
(in chronological order)
William Caslon I (1692–1766) began his foundry operations about 1720 (the date of 1716 is sometimes given), coming to typefounding from a background in cutting bookbinder’s tools for lettering and ornamental stamping. Caslon’s was the first English foundry to compete successfully with the Dutch types that had previously dominated English printing, with letters that surpassed the Dutch in quality.
Caslon soon became the best and most notable foundry in England, and developed a foreign market as well. (The first printed edition of the American Declaration of Independence was set in Caslon.) Caslon’s roman set the example for English typography for generations, and enjoyed an enduring revival from the mid-1800s well into the 1900s. “When in doubt, use Caslon” became a commonplace in printing, with which the present writer was familiar with as a budding young printer.
In 1763, Caslon issued the first specimen book by an English founder. Caslon was succeeded by his son, William II (1720–78), also a highly skilled letter-cutter. The foundry was located on Chiswell Street in London, where it remained until 1937, when it was sold to Stephenson Blake of Sheffield, which closed the Chiswell Street foundry.
The Caslon history in the 1800s is a somewhat complicated succession of Williams, Henrys, Henry Williams, and Caslon widows. (Detailed information may be found in Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.)
William Caslon III (1754–1833) left the original family firm in 1792 to start his own foundry, located in Salisbury Square, with the purchase of the foundry of a recently deceased competitor. He was succeeded in this business by his son, William Caslon IV (1780–1869). William IV introduced the first sans-serif typeface, in 1816. (It didn’t catch on.) In 1819 he sold the foundry to the newly-established firm of Blake Garnett & Co., which later became the noted firm of Stephenson Blake.
The last of the original Caslon family to bear the name was Henry William Caslon (1814–74). At his death, the original family firm, by then called H.W. Caslon & Co., was taken over by its manager, T.W. Smith. Smith’s sons (the last of whom died in 1930) took the name of Caslon, and continued the business under the Caslon name until the acquisition of the foundry, in 1937, by Stephenson Blake. The foundry material passed to the Monotype company in 2005, and is now at the Type Museum in London.
There is still a firm called Caslon Ltd., under the ownership of Caslons. They sell small printing and finishing equipment, including Adana letterpresses and foil-stamping machines. The nature of the relationship with earlier Caslon firms is not clear from the information on their site; they have been in business since at least 1957.
BASKERVILLE—see the Printers page.
Foundries: historic CircuitousRoot page
OTHER NOTABLE DIGITAL FOUNDRIES
(doubtless more to come here when I find the time)
P22 Type Foundry ssues digital versions of a number of fonts from earlier technologies and various historical periods, including digital versions of faces from Lanston Monotype (the American Monotype company) and Hamilton Wood Type. They also issue original faces.
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