November 1

The first entry in the account book of Messrs. Binny & Ronaldson, typefounders of Philadelphia, is dated November 1, 1796 and lists one “John Scull of Pittsburg—$9.00.” And so began the first permanent and successful typefoundry in the United States.

Archibald Binny, printer, and James Ronaldson, baker, had come from Edinburgh, Scotland, had renewed an earlier acquaintance in Philadelphia, and had decided to become typefounders in a location and at a period when there was virtually no typefoundng activity. The firm rented a frame house on Cedar Street for $17.33 per month. The two Scotsmen added to their original equipment by purchasing the typefounding equipment of Christopher Sower II and that of Adam Mappa of New York, establishing a virtual monopoly in the manufacture of printing types in America.

In 1809 the firm published the first typefounder’s specimen book to be produced in the United States, A Specimen of Metal Ornaments Cast at the Letter Foundery of Binny & Ronaldson. This book contained no type lines, but showed metal cuts and reproductions of wood blocks. In 1812 the company issued a book which contained actual types, the first volume of its kind to be published in America.

The types shown were romans and italics, English blackletter, fraktur, Hebrew, and Greek, and a decorative letter, in addition to borders. The romans were typical of the period, being of modern construction. There was a French Canon, very similar to the cuttings of the Baskerville letter made by the Fry foundry in England.

The most interesting of all the types shown is the Pica Roman No. 1. This type, a transitional letter cut as far as is known by Binny himself, was in wide use during the first three decades of the 19th century. When the Binny & Ronaldson firm went through successive ownerships prior to being part of the amalgamation which became American Type Founders Company in 1892, the matrices for Roman No. 1 were retained. Mr. Joseph W. Finney, vice president of the new firm, made trial casts of the type and issued specimen sheets, naming the face Oxford.

Daniel B. Updike, the distinguished proprietor of the Merrymount Press of Boston, acquired the Oxford type and thought so much of it that he used it for the setting of his great two-volume work, Printing Types, Their History, Forms, and Use. When Princeton University Press engaged in the production of the multi-volumed Papers of Thomas Jefferson in 1950, the Binny & Ronaldson Roman No. 1 was recut for the Linotype machine, receiving the name of Monticello. Jefferson is said to have admired the original, hence its selection for this edition.

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