30/33 line Futura Bold

Accommodating the descending tail requires three additional picas. All other capitals in this font are 30 picas.

8 line Ampersand

A bit of a mystery here. Previous posts from this font have been categorized as Futura Bold. And in fact, most of the letters, both caps and lowercase, are identical to Futura, but the open bowl of this ampersand and the hook on the lowercase j have me scratching my head.

From the timeline of American wood type manufacturers on the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection website, we know a handful (give or take a couple) of manufacturers were producing wood type after Futura became ubiquitous in the late 1920s–early 1930s. Since typeface piracy has been rampant since the advent of moveable type, it’s pretty much a given that every manufacturer would have been producing a Futura knockoff. The capital A blocks in this font bear no manufacturer’s stamp, which mostly rules out Hamilton, so whodunnit and whatchamacallit?

The Big Three

24 line Futura Bold

This character comes from another font of unfinished (no varnish or shellac on the face) side grain type, probably cut by American Wood Type Manufacturing Co. in the 1950–60s. The entire font has seen so little use that the router marks are clearly visible on the shoulder. The photo also reveals semi-circular craters around the perimeter of the face, vestiges of the production method that become obscured with use.


8 line Futura Bold

Futura is a geometric sans serif, designed by Paul Renner for the Bauer Type Foundry. I love Futura for its simplicity of form – so many of the letters can be recontextualized and combined to create complex graphic symbols.

Compare the Futura Bold O with the perfect circle in the diagram below. The parts of the stroke that run horizontally (top and bottom) are narrower than the parts that run vertically. This subtle adjustment prevents the letter from appearing too heavy at the poles. This is the same theory behind the conventional fashion wisdom that vertical stripes are slimming, while horizontal stripes add weight.