Faux Letterpress Fonts
- 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
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.