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Faux Letterpress Fonts

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  • Gerald Lange
    I couple of years ago when this list started some of the very early conversations were regarding the optimization of digital type for letterpress. An offshoot
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 8, 2003
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      I couple of years ago when this list started some of the very early
      conversations were regarding the optimization of digital type for
      letterpress. An offshoot of those conversations was to be some test
      printing of digital typefaces that were rendered, in situ, from
      printed specimens of metal type. Well I've finally gotten around to
      this, so here is my long ago promised report.

      There are a number of very nicely rendered digital fonts that capture
      the variance of printed letterpress, either as deliberate reproduction
      (Hoefler Type Foundry's Historical Allsorts, H W Caslon Ltd's
      Founder's Caslon) or as ersatz design (LetterPerfect's OldClaude,
      MetaDesign's Celestia Antiqua). This isn't new to digital, I can think
      of metal type designs (Packard, Pabst Oldstyle, Monotype Poliphilus,
      etc) that set precedent. What I've discovered though, is that while
      these fonts look intriguingly funky in digital settings (sans
      impression), they are extremely difficult to print well letterpress.
      I've recently edition-printed both the OldClaude and Hoefler's St
      Augustin (Granjon's Civilité) and while it was easy enough to keep
      these evenly inked and control any further ink spread, they just end
      up looking like I "might have" screwed up the inking. And, in both
      cases, I did configure (optimize) the fonts for letterpress. I've seen
      recent incidence of Founder's Caslon printed letterpress as well.
      Badly, but I'm not sure how much it could have been saved even if
      printed well.

      When isolated as display, the large sizes of these faces are really
      quite visually interesting, where the spread is easily seen as
      deliberate aberration of the letterform, but in text settings, this is
      not so apparent. I wouldn't say that the final printed page looked bad
      in any way but the kind of clarity that one seeks in fine printing is
      somewhat lost in the effort. This is just a cautionary note here, for
      those who might become intrigued with this affectation in type design.

      Gerald
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