The Book of American Types


A few weeks ago, we went to an estate sale that listed a printing press among the items for sale (jackpot!). We didn't come home with the press (it was a Chandler & Price 8x12 just like ours, and in a basement), but we did find some really great printer's items to bring home.

Our favorite find of the trip was this Book of American Types from 1941 by the American Type Founders. This book was used to market and sell lead type to the printers of America. The American Type Founders (often shortened to ATF) was established in 1892 by the merger of 23 type foundries, representing about 85% of all type manufactured in the United States. ATF was the dominant American manufacturer of metal type from its creation in 1892 until at least the 1940s, and continued to be influential into the 1960s.


The ATF Seattle branch is listed in the back of the book as "Western Ave. & Columbia." I totally geeked out when I read that line. Our studio is in a building on Western Avenue between Yesler & Columbia streets - so the Seattle ATF office was right next door! I love we are in such a historic neighborhood.


Here is some info from the foreward: How to keep specimen books up to date is a problem that has beset type founder since the inception of their art. Popular taste may decree one design obsolete at the same time it is creating a vogue for another not yet cut, and the very format of specimen books develops with the needs of a constantly developing industry...


...Thus we quote the 1882 specimen book of Bruce's New York Type Foundry to say that "In this New Edition of our Specimen Book we show only Fonts of Printing Types, rejecting from it all that are too antiquated for the present taste." Thus, too, newer faces are shown in a supplement which is a more modern in conception and, we hope, more convenient in use...


...Through all these changes in taste, however, one factor continues constant- the quality of ATF type. No matter what the face it reproduces, nor how it is shown, traditionally high standards of workmanship and materials assure its right to be called "the best in any case."


The last page of the book gives the following info about it's creation: This type specimen book was printed on No. 2 Kelly Presses equipped with ATF Non-Offset Guns...two of many pieces of Equipment developed for the graphic arts industries by American Type Founders, Elizabeth New Jersey.


Here's some more copy from the book's interior: Foundry type- precision cast and hand set for perfect spacing- adds the distinguishing touch of artistry which gives a printed piece the appeal on which success often depends. Measured in terms of reader-interest, economy often results from the wise selection of an ATF foundry-cast type face for body copy as well as display.


We'll be moving soon to a larger studio (still in Pioneer Square - I swear, more details are coming soon), and one of the things we really excited about is having more space for type cases. We can't wait to expand our collection of vintage type & imagery. Too bad we can't cruise over to the ATF store and pick some up!