Friday, October 17, 2014

This Is Not My Type

At California College of the Arts, we still teach letterpress the traditional way: by setting individual pieces of metal type by hand. When I was a student and then a teacher's aid there in the 1980s, I watched as the students delightedly printed their very first piece of paper by themselves. Today, I still see faces light up, but a little less frequently. More often I see confusion. What? You can run out of letters? The type gets mixed up in the job case? That's not an n but a u? And at the end of the semester, the final day of my class anyway, we strike type, otherwise known as redistributing it back into the job cases. Two other classes share the letterpress with us. And unknown people sneak in. Which leaves us with standing type. Sometimes it is pied, fallen over, jumbled. And sometimes it is really old. I found one galley with dust bunnies on it.

Type is set in a composing stick. Longer lines need a longer composing stick. We have several sizes.


Leads are the thin pieces of metal that go between the lines (where we get the term "leading"). Slugs are 3x thicker and are always used top and bottom, but can be used between lines as well.


Type is set from right to left, but in the correct order.


This is Univers 55.


And, unlike on the computer, you can run out of letters, which is why, when we share a shop, we need to redistribute the letters immediately after we print them.

Recently, I've begun sorting through the abandoned galleys again. I first picked out all the spacing material and lined it up. We can use that right away.

Then I started sorting the type by typeface. I rather like how this looked as I sorted. I haven't verified it, but I think the two typefacess are either Avant Garde or Futura (larger) and Phenix (thinner). The rest of the tray had 14 point Univers 75 and an as-yet-unidentified serif face, possibly Garamond.


Good thing Mr. Little made us memorize the job case in junior high Graphic Arts class.


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