8 line Aldine Expanded
Converse to traditional text typefaces, Aldine Expanded’s horizontal strokes outweigh the vertical. The adorable smirk of a tail extending off to the right of this very wide character makes close spacing of the requisite QU (or Qu) combination impossible without physically removing part of the body of the sort – this method of kerning is frequently seen in wood type on the capital A’s, L’s, T’s, Y’s, etc.
12 line unknown Gothic Bold Condensed
At first glance, there’s nothing particularly special about this font of wood type. At 12 lines (2 inches) the size is useful, but not impressive. It’s pantograph-routed from the side grain so it was cheaper to produce. The lack of patina and rough edges indicate that it’s relatively new. Though its bold, squarish letterforms are more reminiscent of European sans serifs/grotesques than the American gothics, this font is nothing extraordinary – except for this Q. I’ve searched through American Wood Type: 1828-1900, Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces, and American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, but I could not find a match for this design (probably because the design postdates the first two sources). If anyone knows the name of this face and/or manufacturer, I’d love to hear from you.
Because of its scarcity in English, the letter Q has historically been a form where type designers have taken some liberties – a kind of apology for the quiet, rather lonely life to which it is fated. Quite often, a face can be identified instantly by its Q – see the sweeping elegance of Garamond, the ostentatiousness of Baskerville, or the calligraphic flair of Electra. The tail on this wood letter could hardly be simpler, extending down from the southern bowl with just enough of an angle to lead the eye into the next letter. Maybe it’s this no-nonsense, lack of pretension that makes this a favorite among the characters in my collection.