It was a tough call – all the comments were so great – but ultimately Ryan’s quirky comment, with its “Benny Franklin” quote/John Cage-ian idiom mash-up, won me over and inspired this 5 x 7 inch print. I typeset the comment using 12pt. Van Dijck, and 8pt Clarendon Bold and printed a very small edition of ten on Mohawk Loop 80% PC White 18pt.
Thanks again to the commenters! Ryan send me your snail mail to collect your reward.
Six signed and numbered prints are available in the new Letterpress Daily Store for $8, postage included.
Write a comment with your best explanation of what the image is supposed to be illustrating. I’ll choose my favorite and mail the winner a combined proof of the 12 line Ionic capital letter V and the engraving on the bottom of the block.
According to the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection website, this design was patented by William H. Page in 1880. The Hamilton Manufacturing Company called its (nearly identical) version, No. 167. Morgans & Wilcox showed this face (with very slight variations) as Keystone in their wood type catalog from 1890. This is, in my opinion, one of the sexier non-Tuscan, non-ornamental wood type designs – wish I had more than a couple sorts.
According to Rob Roy Kelly, this version of the Page & Co. imprint was believed to be in use 1857–59. On the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection website, David Shields dates the first appearance of French Clarendon wood types to 1865. When I asked Mr. Shields for assistance with this puzzle, he replied that Kelly’s note regarding this stamp says “use of 1857–‘59 stamp on types not listed until 1870.” Shields guesses Page & Co. may have reused the 1857–59 stamp for a short time in the 1870s.
I discovered a leak in my garage this morning. If I parked my car in the garage a leak would be of little concern. However, about half of my type collection is stored there. Big concern. I had to rearrange the type and galley cabinets to move them out of harms way. Though four or five galleys containing steel furniture actually had standing water in them, sheer luck spared the type.
After the heavy lifting, I rewarded myself by looking through the cases to admire all the dreamy type. I was snapped out of my reverie when I came across two numeral 1 sorts that didn’t belong with the rest of the font in the case. I believe these itinerant characters belong to a 12 line font of Vanderburgh, Wells & Co. Ionic that’s kept safe and dry inside the apartment. Reunited and it feels so good.
The hickey near the bottom of the main stem (visible in the proof) was caused by a spot of ancient dried ink on the face of the character.
12 line Ionic
Call it Egyptian, Clarendon, Ionic, or Slab Serif, but no less an authority than Nicolete Gray called this style of letter “. . . the most brilliant typographic invention of the (nineteenth) century.”¹
Clarendon was the first typeface that I learned to recognize and the first that I proclaimed as my favorite. And though my tastes have evolved and my favorite typeface changes on a bi-weekly basis, the perfectly balanced combination of the vernacular with touches of sophistication – like the voluptuously curved leg on this Ionic capital R – will continue to endear this design to me.
¹Nicolete Gray Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces
V.W. & Co. 18 Dutch St. NY imprint
This is the imprint of Vanderburgh, Wells & Company used between 1864–1867.
12 line Ionic
This 7 reminds me of a fancy antique hammer. It comes from the same font as the capital C shown on January 5. To see more fonts from the Vanderburgh, Wells & Co., check out the excellent Web Museum of Wood Types & Ornaments, a generous gift to the world from Unicorn Graphics. Note the difference between the manufacturer’s imprint found on my font and the stamp shown on the Unicorn Graphics fonts.
24 line (4 inches) French Clarendon XX Condensed
French Clarendon is a derivative of the Antique category of wood types. Along with Antique Tuscan, Grecian, Latin, French Egyptian Antique, Aldine, Columbian, Ionic, and French Clarendon, the derivatives of Antique are the most prevalent of the nineteenth-century wood type styles. The condensed versions of these faces, like this XX Condensed, dominated poster design at the end of the century. Their bold, almost monoweight stems, elongated serifs (they often look like they’ve been stretched), and compact character width allowed for taller letters to be used, maximizing visual impact.
This K is special. An abbreviated spelling of August has been carved into the bottom of the letter. This was not an uncommon practice among creative, fiscally-minded, commercial printers. The end grain of the wood is quite durable and provides ample room to carve additional letters, even illustrations. Because the bottom of the letters were not sanded smooth and finished with shellac, the grain of the wood is prevalent when inked and printed. Here is a printed proof of the bottom of this K:
And a composite photograph showing the top and bottom of the character. Notice the roughness of the carving, clearly aided by a drill bit:
The A’s in this font are stamped with a circular imprint from The Hamilton Manufacturing Company that was used between 1889–1891. Rob Roy Kelly shows three different imprints from Hamilton. This circular version is unique among them; it’s the only one to show Chicago as a location.
12 line Ionic
Ionic belongs to the Antique category of wood types. Characterized by heavy, bracketed, slab-serifs, Ionic is very similar, often indistinguishable from Clarendon. In fact the names have been used interchangeably. For more background, see Mitja Miklavcic’s excellent essay, Three chapters in the development of clarendon/ionic typefaces.
Unfortunately, my font is missing the G and the 1, and I don’t have the lowercase. Despite its age (see the imprint note below), all of the present characters are in remarkably good condition.
I was pleased to find the following imprint: V.W. & Co. 18 Dutch’s Street, NY, indicating that this font was likely made between 1864–1867 before the Vanderburgh, Wells & Co. factory in Paterson, New Jersey burned to the ground, and the wood type-making machinery was moved to New York. Here’s a rubbing of the imprint: