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Aitken font

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  • Matt Kelsey
    Gerald had posted earlier this month about an Arion Press event for their new limited edition of the Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin. The notice mentioned the
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 29, 2006
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      Gerald had posted earlier this month about an Arion Press event for
      their new limited edition of the Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin. The
      notice mentioned the font used, Aitken, a new digital version "of what
      is believed to be the first type family cut and cast in the United
      States."

      I did not go to the event, but did make a brief visit to Arion Press /
      M&H Type yesterday, and Andrew Hoyem showed me a copy of their new
      book. It's noteworthy for this list that the Aitken font was designed
      specifically for digital letterpress -- for printing via photopolymer,
      as was done for this book.

      Here is an explanation of the font from the Arion website:

      "Andrew Hoyem has taken advantage of twenty-first century technologies
      in order to revive what is believed to be the first type family cut
      and cast in America. In 1796 two Scotsmen named Binny and Ronaldson
      started a type foundry in Philadelphia, the first in the country to
      endure. By 1800 they had produced a remarkably beautiful and
      utilitarian type, identified simply as Roman No. 1. It is a
      Transitional face, between Old Style (as in Caslon) and Modern (as in
      Bodoni). The type was used by Jane Aitken, daughter of Robert Aitken,
      the famous printer of the American Revolution, and an accomplished
      printer herself, for the printing of the first American translation of
      the Bible, by Charles Thomson, in 1808. It was reintroduced by
      American Type Founders Company in 1892 under the name Oxford and was
      used by a succession of fine printers, such as Daniel Berkeley Updike,
      Bruce Rogers, and the Grabhorn Press. Arion Press has 1,200 pounds of
      the original type that once belonged to the Grabhorn Press. Oxford was
      cast for hand composition only and was not adapted for Linotype or
      Monotype composition. The matrices are now in the collection of the
      Smithsonian Institution and unavailable for further casting. In 2002,
      Hoyem worked with type designer Linnea Lundquist, assisted by Andrew
      Crewdson, to create a digital version of this historic face, which he
      renamed Aitken."

      See http://www.arionpress.com/catalog/075.htm for more details.

      The Binny & Ronaldson font was revived and considerably modified by
      Linotype as Monticello in the 1950s; a few years ago Matthew Carter
      created a digital version of Monticello for Princeton's Thomas
      Jefferson letters series. In the Carter version, the thin strokes are
      considerably strengthened to create the proper weight for offset
      printing.

      By contrast, the Arion Press Aitken font is created specifically for
      letterpress printing at text size. It's also much truer to the
      original Binny & Ronaldson design than either of the Monticello
      variants. If you are in San Francisco, it's worth a trip to Arion
      Press's gallery to see a nice little exhibit they have about the type.
      They show a copy of the 1808 Bible printed by Jane Aitken, as well as
      books from Bruce Rogers and Daniel Berkeley Updike using the same font
      more than a century later. There are also examples showing stages in
      the design of this new revival of the font.

      There's a good chapter about the Oxford font and its history in
      Alexander Lawson's book, Anatomy of a Typeface.

      Andrew Hoyem mentioned that he'd love to see the Aitken font cut for
      Monotype casting, but he also recognized that's probably impractical.
      (By the way, Andrew mentioned that the Smithsonian wouldn't even let
      them look at the original mats in their collection!)

      Matt
    • Gerald Lange
      Hi Matt The message was a forward from Linnea. I did not know if I could publicly announce it at the time but yes, this would be the second digital font
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 29, 2006
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        Hi Matt

        The message was a forward from Linnea. I did not know if I could publicly announce it at the time but yes, this would be the second digital font specifically designed for letterpress. The first was dfTYPE's Rialto Pressa. Interestingly, Andy Crewdson was also involved somewhat with the Carter revival as I recall and there was some talk early on about having that optimized for letterpress. But apparently not.

        Thanks for the information. Do you know if there is any intention to make Aitken available to other presses?

        Gerald Lange
        http://BielerPress.blogspot.com


        >
        > Gerald had posted earlier this month about an Arion Press event for
        > their new limited edition of the Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin. The
        > notice mentioned the font used, Aitken, a new digital version "of what
        > is believed to be the first type family cut and cast in the United
        > States."
        >
        > I did not go to the event, but did make a brief visit to Arion Press /
        > M&H Type yesterday, and Andrew Hoyem showed me a copy of their new
        > book. It's noteworthy for this list that the Aitken font was designed
        > specifically for digital letterpress -- for printing via photopolymer,
        > as was done for this book.
        >
        . . . .
        >
        > The Binny & Ronaldson font was revived and considerably modified by
        > Linotype as Monticello in the 1950s; a few years ago Matthew Carter
        > created a digital version of Monticello for Princeton's Thomas
        > Jefferson letters series. In the Carter version, the thin strokes are
        > considerably strengthened to create the proper weight for offset
        > printing.
        >
        > By contrast, the Arion Press Aitken font is created specifically for
        > letterpress printing at text size. It's also much truer to the
        > original Binny & Ronaldson design than either of the Monticello
        > variants. If you are in San Francisco, it's worth a trip to Arion
        > Press's gallery to see a nice little exhibit they have about the type.
        > They show a copy of the 1808 Bible printed by Jane Aitken, as well as
        > books from Bruce Rogers and Daniel Berkeley Updike using the same font
        > more than a century later. There are also examples showing stages in
        > the design of this new revival of the font.
        >
        > There's a good chapter about the Oxford font and its history in
        > Alexander Lawson's book, Anatomy of a Typeface.
        >
        > Andrew Hoyem mentioned that he'd love to see the Aitken font cut for
        > Monotype casting, but he also recognized that's probably impractical.
        > (By the way, Andrew mentioned that the Smithsonian wouldn't even let
        > them look at the original mats in their collection!)
        >
        > Matt
        >
      • Matt Kelsey
        ... other presses? I don t know any specifics, but I tend to doubt that Arion Press would release the digital font to other presses at this point. They funded
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 29, 2006
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          > Do you know if there is any intention to make Aitken available to
          other presses?

          I don't know any specifics, but I tend to doubt that Arion Press would
          release the digital font to other presses at this point. They funded
          its development, and it seems doubtful they would see much financial
          benefit from selling a few copies of the digital font -- plus they
          would lose the font's exclusivity. Andrew Hoyem's comments about a
          possible Monotype version indicate his interest; if he could get mats
          cut, it would dovetail with the M&H Type business, which is part of
          Arion Press.

          It does look like a lovely revival, from my brief examination of the
          Franklin book. I had previously admired the Oxford font in a number of
          small publications by one notable private press, Ralph Babcock's
          Scarlet Cockerel. His father-in-law, Steve Watts, had been a manager
          at ATF, and had arranged a small casting of Oxford around 1950 or so.
          That appears to be the last time it was cast in metal.

          Matt
        • Gerald Lange
          Matt I guess this all makes sense. I can certainly understand holding it as a proprietary face. On the other hand Rialto was the only face that dfTYPE (die
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 29, 2006
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            Matt

            I guess this all makes sense. I can certainly understand holding it as
            a proprietary face. On the other hand Rialto was the only face that
            dfTYPE (die Fischbachpresse) had produced and it put them on the map.
            The prospectus for it can be found in the Files section here

            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PPLetterpress/files/%20%20Reference%20materials/

            I can imagine that Aitken could work similarly for Arion and could
            provide added publicity to the Press. Especially now as the metal type
            heritage is so venerated by the digital type folks. I doubt the market
            would be just letterpress folk, or for that matter, letterpress folk
            at all. It's kind of rare to hear here that anyone has purchased a new
            digital font that they want to recommend to fellow members.

            If there were two proprietary versions, one metal, one digital, which
            actually would Arion use and why? If the Monotype version was to be
            offered to the trade via M&H would it actually sell well, or even sell
            at more than collector interest, to that very limited market better
            than a digital font that could be marketed to a much, much larger
            audience? Especially now, since no further production effort or cost
            is required. I'm assuming considering a Monotype version is just a
            matter of pride on Andrew's part.

            Gerald Lange
            http://BielerPress.blogspot.com


            >
            > > Do you know if there is any intention to make Aitken available to
            > other presses?
            >
            > I don't know any specifics, but I tend to doubt that Arion Press would
            > release the digital font to other presses at this point. They funded
            > its development, and it seems doubtful they would see much financial
            > benefit from selling a few copies of the digital font -- plus they
            > would lose the font's exclusivity. Andrew Hoyem's comments about a
            > possible Monotype version indicate his interest; if he could get mats
            > cut, it would dovetail with the M&H Type business, which is part of
            > Arion Press.
            >
            > It does look like a lovely revival, from my brief examination of the
            > Franklin book. I had previously admired the Oxford font in a number of
            > small publications by one notable private press, Ralph Babcock's
            > Scarlet Cockerel. His father-in-law, Steve Watts, had been a manager
            > at ATF, and had arranged a small casting of Oxford around 1950 or so.
            > That appears to be the last time it was cast in metal.
            >
            > Matt
            >
          • Michael Barnes
            It is a shame this font had to be recreated this way. Updike used it for Printing Types and said this about it (volume 2, page 231): This type is not
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 3, 2006
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              It is a shame this font had to be recreated this way. Updike used it
              for Printing Types and said this about it (volume 2, page 231): "This
              type is not obtainable above 12-point or below 9-point, although Binny
              & Ronaldson's specimen of 1812 shows also brevier and minion. It is
              called "Oxford" by the American Type Founders Company, from whom it may
              be had. I have used it for this book. It seems to be a type of real
              distinction."


              On Jun 29, 2006, at 11:02 AM, Matt Kelsey wrote:

              > Gerald had posted earlier this month about an Arion Press event for
              > their new limited edition of the Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin. The
              > notice mentioned the font used, Aitken, a new digital version "of what
              > is believed to be the first type family cut and cast in the United
              > States."
              >
              > I did not go to the event, but did make a brief visit to Arion Press /
              > M&H Type yesterday, and Andrew Hoyem showed me a copy of their new
              > book. It's noteworthy for this list that the Aitken font was designed
              > specifically for digital letterpress -- for printing via photopolymer,
              > as was done for this book.
              >
              > Here is an explanation of the font from the Arion website:
              >
              > "Andrew Hoyem has taken advantage of twenty-first century technologies
              > in order to revive what is believed to be the first type family cut
              > and cast in America. In 1796 two Scotsmen named Binny and Ronaldson
              > started a type foundry in Philadelphia, the first in the country to
              > endure. By 1800 they had produced a remarkably beautiful and
              > utilitarian type, identified simply as Roman No. 1. It is a
              > Transitional face, between Old Style (as in Caslon) and Modern (as in
              > Bodoni). The type was used by Jane Aitken, daughter of Robert Aitken,
              > the famous printer of the American Revolution, and an accomplished
              > printer herself, for the printing of the first American translation of
              > the Bible, by Charles Thomson, in 1808. It was reintroduced by
              > American Type Founders Company in 1892 under the name Oxford and was
              > used by a succession of fine printers, such as Daniel Berkeley Updike,
              > Bruce Rogers, and the Grabhorn Press. Arion Press has 1,200 pounds of
              > the original type that once belonged to the Grabhorn Press. Oxford was
              > cast for hand composition only and was not adapted for Linotype or
              > Monotype composition. The matrices are now in the collection of the
              > Smithsonian Institution and unavailable for further casting. In 2002,
              > Hoyem worked with type designer Linnea Lundquist, assisted by Andrew
              > Crewdson, to create a digital version of this historic face, which he
              > renamed Aitken."
              >
              > See http://www.arionpress.com/catalog/075.htm for more details.
              >
              > The Binny & Ronaldson font was revived and considerably modified by
              > Linotype as Monticello in the 1950s; a few years ago Matthew Carter
              > created a digital version of Monticello for Princeton's Thomas
              > Jefferson letters series. In the Carter version, the thin strokes are
              > considerably strengthened to create the proper weight for offset
              > printing.
              >
              > By contrast, the Arion Press Aitken font is created specifically for
              > letterpress printing at text size. It's also much truer to the
              > original Binny & Ronaldson design than either of the Monticello
              > variants. If you are in San Francisco, it's worth a trip to Arion
              > Press's gallery to see a nice little exhibit they have about the type.
              > They show a copy of the 1808 Bible printed by Jane Aitken, as well as
              > books from Bruce Rogers and Daniel Berkeley Updike using the same font
              > more than a century later. There are also examples showing stages in
              > the design of this new revival of the font.
              >
              > There's a good chapter about the Oxford font and its history in
              > Alexander Lawson's book, Anatomy of a Typeface.
              >
              > Andrew Hoyem mentioned that he'd love to see the Aitken font cut for
              > Monotype casting, but he also recognized that's probably impractical.
              > (By the way, Andrew mentioned that the Smithsonian wouldn't even let
              > them look at the original mats in their collection!)
              >
              > Matt
              >
              >

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