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.
Weighing in at 3 picas tall and 6p8 (read 6 picas, 8 points) wide – over twice as wide as it is tall – this capital letter P comes from one of my favorite petite fonts. The excellent condition of the font belies its age. According to the imprint, shown stamped into the side of the capital A’s, this type was likely manufactured between 1867–1890.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, Lauren flew to Minneapolis for a friend’s wedding. As her gift to the couple, she had designed the announcement package, but she didn’t want to show up empty handed for the bachelorette party. What to do? How about a custom letterpress/wood type print in a hand stained frame? We can do that. And we did. It turned out well enough that I made one using our initials. The type is 6 (letters) and 3 (ampersand) line Gothic Extended from Vanderburgh, Wells & Co. Decorative Linotype rules add a little extra charm.
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.
6 line Gothic Extended
This 6 is from the one of the fonts described in my “Killer B’s” post from January 3. As with many wood type faces, the 6 and 9 from this font are interchangeable by rotating 180 degrees.
4 line French Clarendon XX Condensed
Get out your line gauges boys and girls – this little guy is two picas shy of an inch (4 lines/picas = 48 points). I only have one other font of wood type this small, but it’s a bold Gothic and it looks huge by comparison. The elongated, bracketed serifs that characterize the French Clarendons seem even more disproportionate at this scale. The A’s have a Vanderburgh, Wells & Co., New York imprint (see below), dating this type to 1867–1890.
Varying screen sizes and monitor resolutions make it difficult to accurately show the size of individual wood type blocks and respective proofs. But I feel compelled in this case to provide a sense of scale. The penny in the image below was scanned simultaneously with the proof of the V.
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:
6 line and 3 line Gothic Extended
These letters come from two unusually complete fonts – both sizes have a full set of capitals, figures, and punctuation – of a moderately rare face. Gothic Extended made its first appearance in a Wells and Webb specimen from 1840. The earliest designs had no lowercase, but did have figures (numbers). A lowercase did not appear until 1850.
Both fonts contain an imprint on the A’s from Vanderburgh, Wells & Co., New York, which means the type was manufactured between 1867–1890. Here is a graphite rubbing taken from one of the four A’s in the 3 line font: