July 5

George Bruce, one of the best of the American typefounders, died on July 5, 1886, just four years after the printing of what, is considered to be one of the finest type specimen books produced in the United States—the 1882 catalog of the Bruce Type Foundry.

Coming to these shores from his native Scotland in 1795, when he was just fourteen years of age, George Bruce apprenticed himself to a Philadelphia printer. In 1806 he combined with his elder brother, David, in establishing a printing firm in New York. David, a pressman, became extremely interested in the new craft of stereotyping. He returned to Great Britain to discuss the subject with Earl Stanhope who was at the time the leading authority on stereotyping. When he found Stanhope unwilling to divulge any information, he returned to New York and began his own experiments, resulting in the successful establishment of the process in the United States.

At that time there was very little consistency among typefounders concerning the size of the types which they produced. Consequently printers were annoyed with the variations between the size of one founder’s product and that of another. George Bruce attempted, about 1822, to bring some order to this problem and devised a system of sizes which covered every type size from Pearl (5-point) to Canon (48-point). Bruce’s system, the first practical endeavor made by an American typefounder, has since been superseded by the method finally adopted by all American foundries in 1886, and later ratified by founders in Great Britain in 1898.

Bruce took the sizes of 7-point to 12-point, and made them the standard. All other sizes were to be determined by the multiplication or division of these standard six sizes, using the rule of geometrical progression. The 11-point was made as much larger than 10-point as 9-point was made larger than 8-point. Each size increased .122462ʺ, which when increased six times in a series, doubles on the seventh progression the size of the first body. While it was an attempt to apply scientific reasoning to the size of type, it was quite unwieldy, and the Bruce firm could not interest any other founder in adopting the practice.

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