Walk Like an Egyptian

20 line Tuscan Egyptian

Tuscan Egyptian is one of many Ornamented Egyptians that began to appear in all the wood type manufacturer’s specimen books in the 1870s. Rob Roy Kelly described Tuscan Egyptian as essentially a French Antique, with added points at the median and bifurcated serifs. Each of the capital A’s in this font bears the circular Hamilton Mfg. Co. imprint that was used between 1889–1891.

Black T

15 line Balloon Extra Bold

Balloon is an italic, capitals-only face designed in 1939 for the American Type Foundry by Max Kaufmann. It comes in three weights: Light, Bold, and Extra Bold.

The Balloon Extra Bold fonts in my wood type collection (I have this in multiple sizes) are all on an angled body and require angled furniture. In my opinion, Balloon is best Extra Bold and in large sizes.


This was an exciting discovery made a few years ago at Dave Churchman’s warehouse. It’s a pantograph router cut block (actually, it’s three blocks joined together; see below) cut from end grain wood. The circular Hamilton Mfg. Co. imprint, clearly visible on the back, dates the block to 1889–1891. The dimensions are 31p6 x 42p0. This is read, 31 picas 6 points tall by 42 picas wide. In inches it measures 5.25 x 7.

Proof of FAIR block

So Sharp

30 line Gothic Tuscan No. 3

First appearing in the 1850s, this pointed Tuscan – as differentiated from the concave style Tuscans (see “L is for Love Letters,” January 17) – can be seen in the 1888 “Specimens of The Wm. H. Page Wood Type Co.” Below is a scan from a facsimile edition of that specimen produced by Pioneer Press of W. VA., Inc. in cooperation with David W. Peat, a collector and authority on type specimen books.

The small capital D in the upper right hand corner of the scan is the price code. According to the “Reduced Price List, 1888” included with the specimen book the 30 line Gothic Tuscan No. 3 cost $0.14 per letter. According to Measuring Worth, that would be the 2008 equivalent of $3.27 per letter. The smallest capitals only font of type contained about 75 letters and 26 figures (numerals).

“They say the neon lights are bright”

12 line Broadway Condensed

Broadway was originally designed by America’s most prolific type designer, Morris Fuller Benton, as a foundry metal type. It was released as a caps only face by the American Type Foundry (ATF) in 1927. The Lanston Monotype Machine Company copied Broadway in 1928, but added a lowercase. Benton added Broadway Condensed in 1929, with a lowercase. This 12 line wood type version is cut from the side grain and has no manufacturer’s mark.

“I never joke about my work 007”

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.


30 line (5 inches!) Grecian Condensed

“Grecian was one of the significant poster faces of the [nineteenth] century,” wrote Rob Roy Kelly. Not bad for a design that Nicolete Gray described as “founded on the simple idea of taking the corner off the letter.”¹ Derived from the Antiques, Grecian shares the same heavy unbracketed serifs, but is differentiated by chamfered sides and square/rectangular counters. The earliest wood versions of Grecian (it first appeared in specimens of the English type foundries in the 1840s) were shown in the 1846 wood type catalog of Wells and Webb. Early versions, including Condensed, Extra Condensed, and X Condensed Open were designed without lowercase. My font is capitals only – plus two exclamation points. Unfortunately, no manufacturer’s stamp is present.

¹ Nicolete Gray, Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces, 1976


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.


8 line Aldine Expanded

Aldine is another subcategory of Antique. William H. Page patented the design around 1870; Aldine Expanded appeared in 1872. The serifs are significantly heavier than the stems and conspicuously bracketed. Despite its impractical width – some characters, like the capital W, are more than twice as wide as they are tall – the Aldine faces were used extensively in poster printing throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century. The strong figure/ground relationship inherent to this design creates a wonderfully dynamic tension on the page. Sadly, my capitals only font is incomplete. Missing B, D, E, H, L, M, R, S, and Y.


8 line, 5 line, and 4 line De Vinne

First cut by Hamilton Manufacturing Co. circa 1895, this face was designed and named for the great American printer Theodore Low De Vinne. Mac McGrew wrote in his American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century (an invaluable typographic resource), “De Vinne, the display face, is credited with bringing an end to the period of overly ornate and fanciful display faces of the nineteenth century, and with restoring the dignity of plain roman types.” De Vinne himself credited the design to the Central Type Foundry (CTF patented it in 1893) and said of it, “This face is the outcome of correspondence between the senior of the De Vinne Press (himself) and Mr. J. A. St. John of the Central Type Foundry of St. Louis, concerning the need of plainer types of display, to replace the profusely ornamented types in fashion.” Luckily for us, fashion is cyclical.

The missing stem of the 8 line M is not due to poor printing, rather that part of the letter was damaged long before it ever came into my possession. Note that the two smaller letters are less condensed. De Vinne was copied, condensed, compressed, extended, and expanded by every major American typefoundry, plus Linotype, Monotype, and the wood type manufacturers.

Heavy Metal Interlude

18 pt. Border No. F-755

This beauty is the handiwork of Sky Shipley, Chief Engineer at Skyline Type Foundry in Kampsville, Illinois. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shipley a few years ago during one of my regular visits to see the inimitable Dave Churchman and his ever charming wife, Charlene. And I have the pleasure of owning and printing from two type fonts and two border fonts cast by Sky – I hope to purchase them all some day. If you’ve never had the good fortune of printing from newly cast metal types, do yourself a favor and visit Skyline’s website. Gorgeous, brand new foundry type, shipped to your door, and it comes expertly packaged in fancy boxes.

L is for Love Letters

15 line Antique Tuscan

Like French Clarendon, Tuscan is a subcategory of Antique. The first appearance of Antique Tuscan was in the 1849 Wells & Webb type specimen, it showed only capital letters. A lowercase showed up five years later, also by Wells & Webb. The design – originating as wood type, then adapted and copied by foundries casting metal type – is a modification of Antique in which curves are substituted for straight lines and the terminals of the serifs become concave. Not long after its appearance in the Wells & Webb specimens Antique Tuscan was available from all wood type manufacturers, and proved a popular design in both wood and metal through the end of the nineteenth century. The range of weights available grew to include, Condensed, X Condensed, XX Condensed, Expanded, and Extended.

My font includes capitals and some punctuation – wait until you see the sexy ampersand – but no lowercase. As far as I know this is the only font of veneer type in my collection; the face of the letters is cut from a thin veneer (0.1875 inches) of wood that is glued to a separate block to make it type high. Rob Roy Kelly believed Hamilton to be the only manufacturer to produce wood type by this method (I could not find an imprint on this font), though he describes the veneers as being 0.0625 inches. This method of production was so much cheaper than using end-cut type it allowed Hamilton to undersell its competitors, eventually forcing all other wood type producers to sell out to The Hamilton Manufacturing Company.

Oh K

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.

Brought to you by the letter J

12 line Trafton Script

Many of the later faces cut by Hamilton Manufacturing Co. and American Wood Type originated as foundry type or monotype designs. Trafton Script is one these. It was designed by Howard Allen Trafton, New York, in 1933, and cut by Bauer Type Foundry in Germany. Its long ascenders and descenders give it a modicum of sophistication, but Trafton still manages a certain informality. Unlike other script fonts (like the yet to be proofed Brush Script), this wood (side grain) version of Trafton was cut on an upright body so it does not require angled furniture. No imprint was found.


10 line Cooper Black Condensed

Designed by the great Oswald Cooper for Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, Cooper Black was released in 1922, before BB&S was absorbed by the American Type Foundry (ATF). Despite its rotund, slightly comical appearance, Cooper Black went on to become ATF’s second best selling typeface of all time (after Copperplate Gothic). This version in wood (end grain) was cut by Hamilton Manufacturing Company.


10 line Kabel

A wood version of the popular metal face designed by Rudolf Koch. This font was cut by The Hamilton Wood Type Company, Two Rivers, Wisconsin. According to Kelly, the imprint on the capital A (see image below) was used by Hamilton after 1891. Kabel (the original metal version) was released by the Klingspor foundry in 1927.

All tied up

15 line Antique XX Condensed

One of the main categories of wood type styles, as outlined by Rob Roy Kelly, the Antiques are characterized by their unbracketed slab serifs (the serifs intersect the stems at right angles, without any curvature). This ff ligature is from a font containing capitals and lowercase, but no figures and limited punctuation. Typepedia defines a ligature as two or more letters joined together to form one glyph. This particular ligature has a funny little ball terminal (a serif-less ending to a stroke)  that reminds me of a smiling worm. I could not find a manufacturer’s imprint.

Sweet E

15 line Broad-Stroke Cursive

According to Mac McGrew’s American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, Broad-Stroke Cursive was Lanston Monotype’s name for English Monotype’s Script Bold. This is an incomplete font – I only have one of each capital. I did not find an imprint. The lack of patina and roughness of the letters indicates these letters did not see much use.

This type is cut from side-grain wood.

Tenacious D

12 line Arabian

Rob Roy Kelly describes Arabian as a semi-ornamental derivative of the Gothics. The Arabians first appeared around 1869. William Page issued two styles, Arabian and Arabian No. 1, both with capitals and lowercase – my font has capitals only.


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:

Killer B’s

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:

Wood type everyday: get used to it

10 line Gothic Condensed Octagon Shade

On page 125 of the 1977 Da Capo Press paperback edition of Rob Roy Kelly’s American Wood Type: 1828–1900, Kelly writes that this design appeared for the first time in wood (it’s based on a metal type face originating in Europe) in the Wells & Webb specimen of 1854.

Many of the manufacturers of wood type stamped an imprint on the capital A’s as an indentifier. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a manufacturer’s imprint on this font so the provenance is unknown.

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