Renewed Flow of Type Faces Meets Mixed Emotions

Happy days are apparently back again for type of files, typographic designers, and advertising layout men. New type faces, once more issuing from type founders in an ever-increasing stream, are being alluringly depicted by beautifully printed specimen sheets. It would be nice to report that printers also are delighted at the prospect of a return to the harried days of the ’20s and ’30s, when it seemed that every time the phone rang someone (always a preferred customer) was asking whether or not some more or less exotic new type was yet available–in a full series, of course.

The period 1939 to 1945 witnessed a definite halt to the flood of new type designs that had threatened to engulf many printers, particularly those engaged in trade composition and advertising typography. Naturally enough, the European imports suffered first and most heavily, and this loss was keenly felt, because Continental type foundries had led the field in typographic innovation for a period of 15 years.

While to the dabblers and typography this slowdown seemed almost catastrophic, everyone else settle down with considerable relief to utilizing a more stable crop of types. Typography benefited because the really well-designed letters were given a better opportunity to survive. Composing rooms were already bulging with tight cabinets that were tying up a considerable investment in space and metal, and that contain types that had been in many instances relegated to a typographic limber lost.

The standard classics—Garamond, Caslon, Baskerville and Bodoni—received a new lease on life as many newer and less available designs gradually fell into disuse. Typographic designers were forced time and again to use types considered to be hackneyed by many who practice the profession. nevertheless, a great deal of fine work was produced, often by modernists who learned that much was worthwhile in the best of the basic faces.

At the close of World War II, American Type Founders was the first to recover and build up to full production, particularly with prewar types. At this point the future did not appear to be too bright for most of the European foundries. Many of them were war-ravaged, and American printers were extremely doubtful of ever seeing a full recovery.

In this immediate postwar period, Amsterdam Type Foundry entered into an agreement with American Type Founders under which the American firm with market many of the successful types of the Dutch foundry, such as Egmont, Libra, Rondo, and a number of other designs.

Meanwhile, the Bauer foundry in Germany slowly got into production with the types which it earned it an enviable reputation, such as Futura, Weiss, Corvinus and Legend. Very quickly, stocks were brought up, and the firm again turned to manufacturing new designs.

By 1949 both of these foundries were in full gear, Amsterdam coming out with Reiner Script, followed by DeRoos Roman, from the hand of S.H. DeRoos, Holland’s great type designer. Bauer added an extra bold to the Weiss series and a similar weight to Bauer Bodoni. In addition came Topic, from the board of Paul Renner, creator of Futura, and a roman named Horizon. The latest from Bauer is the wide gothic, Venus.

Three German type foundries, Stempel, Klingspor, and Berthold, are now all active in the production of prewar and new designs. The first Stempel type to be brought over was Trajanus, cut originally in 1939 by Warren Chappell, American type designer and artist. Berthold types, now being marketed by the Amsterdam organization, include several designs which won popularity in the ’30s, such as Ariston and Signal scripts. Post Antiqua, much used on the Continent, bids fair to see some use in this country. Klingspor is now represented by a small import house, which has sent to the trade specimen showings of the prewar types.

ATF has also been busy during this competitive period, bringing out two calligraphic faces, Quillscript and Heritage, in addition to Dom Casual, the freely drawn display letter.

The machine companies have not been idle, either, since 1946. An impressive array of new designs has been produced in matrix form for slug-and single-type casting machines. While some of this production has been in the form of new book types, a real effort has been made to round out the existing type families more fully with variations of weights and set widths and with new sizes to meet the frequent demands of specialized users.

This article first appeared in “The Composing Room” column of the April 1954 issue of The Inland Printer.


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