We often get requests to cast this or that typeface. Sometimes the matrices are in our vault, sometimes not—sometimes we can take on a custom project, and sometimes we decline. The request most often received is for a certain set of combinable decorative elements produced in the 1940s by American Type Founders. I had no idea whether these matrices had survived the 1992 ATF liquidation auction, and if so, where they were—and up until recently, Skyline did not have the necessary hardware to produce type from ATF’s style of foundry mats. Then I became aware that the mats had in fact survived, and were safe in the collection of a longtime friend and fellow typefounder. This gentleman graciously agreed to make them available. Casting proved to be a major undertaking, and we’ve been working on it in deep secrecy for several months.
But the curtain can now be raised, and we proudly roll out Alpha-Blox in 36pt.
It was understood from the beginning that a product this extraordinary called for very special packaging, something like a treasure chest. We have two Hammond Glider saws in our shop and I had often toyed with the idea of using this precision instrument to replicate the finger-jointed wooden accessory boxes that originally came with our Thompson Type Casters. So I proceeded to sketch out some ideas and do a little experimenting. Many days and many buckets of discarded box parts later, I had what I considered an acceptable prototype. More refined examples followed, and the process was captured in full detail to enable quantity production. The finished product is a felt-lined birchwood box, 7½ x 13½ inches, with brass hinges and latch, and gold foil-stamped legend. To the left and right sides of the type are compartments where quotation quads (not included) may be kept for use in composition, with each side able to accommodate 26 em-body quads. A card is furnished, printed on Skyline’s 1890 Chandler & Price press, that shows all the various elements and their layout (yep, just like Whitman’s chocolates). The box and contents weigh in at 15¾ lbs.
A link to ATF’s original 1944 specimen may be found on the Type & Borders page. Alpha-Blox were made in three sizes, of which this is the largest. They consist of two different sets of designs: the Linear, with 19 elements, and the Reverse, with 23. These are all represented in the Skyline set in the exact proportions that were used by ATF, with a total count of 220 pieces.
Pricing for the Alpha-Blox Boxed Set is $295.00. Purchasers have the option of adding a second full set of type, packed in bulk, for a total price of $495.00. (Due to the amount of time and labor involved in fabrication, there is a limit of one boxed set per person until we’re sure we can keep up.)
Back in stock: Grimaldi in 24pt.
Skyline is closed while we’re on the road to the St. Louis Wayzgoose, and hauling in a couple of truckloads of type metal after that. Orders and emails sent during this time will be attended to promptly when we reopen. Meanwhile, several worthy casting projects are well underway, and we’ll have news when our regular first-of-the-month announcements resume on August 1.
And this just in from David Wakefield (great info, thanks David!):
Border U-14 is from the original 3-piece (Rose) ‘Flower’ No 6, engraved in the Double Pica size at the Fry Foundry in Bristol during the latter half of the eighteenth century. It descended through several acquisitions to Stephenson Blake where eventually, in 1922, it was revived as unit No 502 in a collection entitled ‘Eighteenth Century Flowers & Borderings’ made up mostly from their inherited matrices. It survived into the 70s as Miscellaneous Border 326/502.
Border No. U-14 has been found by Steve Saxe in the 1934 Stephenson Blake specimen. It’s in a section titled “Eighteenth Century Flowers & Borderings” and is designated No. 502. Thanks, Steve.
We are indebted to the inimitable Graham Moss for this month’s new gem, Border No. U-14. Quite some time ago, Graham very generously sent a set of three antique foundry matrices to Skyline for us to evaluate for casting. It was determined that they would have to be re-engineered in order for us to cast them. After lengthy consideration of all possibilities, this was carefully accomplished, and 50 fonts were produced. It may be that there were other elements to the design besides these. The source of the border and the mats is unknown, but Graham does have some type from them bearing the Stephenson-Blake pinmark. If you can make a positive ID, do let us know and we’ll publish it.
But wait, there’s more! By special request we present the Granjon Arabesque Fleurons in 18pt. These six versatile ornaments have classical beauty and can be combined in as many ways as you can imagine; we have shown just a few here in the form composed to print the box label:
Our third and final new casting for this month is Border No. G-20 in 24pt. Back in stock again are Dresden, Tangier, Umbra, Border U-9 and Collection No. 10. So get printing, and we’ll see you soon at the APA Wayzgoose in St. Louis! (See http://2016wayzgoose.apa-letterpress.com/ for details.)
Here’s a new 19th century revival that’s a must-have: Thunderbird Extra Condensed in full-face 36pt. Dating to about 1860, it was the quintessential type of the Civil War and the Old West. Imagine all the fun you could have
with a font (or two).
Now jumping ahead seventy years, Monotype came out with a new variation on one of their existing faces, with a name that exemplifies the style trend of the day—Streamline. We are pleased to offer a new casting of this eye-grabbing type in 36pt (the only size ever cut). The design consists of only the 26 capitals.
And we’ve saved what may be the best for last: we are proud to present as Collection No. 36 the complete set of all 22 Primula Ornaments in 12 pt. These lovely decorative elements were designed by Typefoundry Amsterdam about 1950 and cast in three sizes; this is the second-largest. Use singly, use in lines as border, use in creative combinations. Do not overuse.
All of the above are on the shelf and ready to ship—and as always, we’re busy working on more great projects this month. Press on.
Good, bad, or ugly, it was a historic type face: released in Germany by Bauer Foundry in the 1920s, it was met with acceptance in the USA and arguably triggered the subsequent rise to primacy of the plain gothics–Spartan, Airport, 20th Century, Helvetica. For April we present Futura in 18 point.
Ready for a shot of border euphoria? Pick up the new Border U-4, hot off the caster! The origin of this striking and refreshing 14 point design is unknown, but the unfinished electrodeposited matrices came from the estate of Paul Hayden Duensing. We finished them up by careful hand-lapping and took them into production. A European design, perhaps? If anyone can identify the source of this border, by all means let us know so we can give proper historical credit.
And while on that size we did up three new Monotype designs as well: Borders No. 117, 1424, and 1425. The first two of these are single-element borders, and we invite you to check out the different effects achieved in the specimens just by using multiple orientations of the type.
We were caught with our pants down (uh, typographically speaking, that is) last year when our 16pt Jessen Schrift sold out before it was even released. So we’ve done a second casting and it’s now back in stock—yes, with lowercase supplements available too.
And now it’s time to pack our box with five dozen liquor jugs and head for the Bay Area Printers Fair on Saturday, April 9. This growing event was excellent last year, and we’ll be there with plenty of new type for sale. For details go to the San Jose Printers Guild at https://printersguild.wordpress.com/. See you there!