Immoveable type

I have probably mentioned (too frequently, no doubt) that I write a font editor.

Well, I thought it would be nice to have some pictures of actual slugs of metal type, just for historical interest, to add to my documentation.

So I looked up printers in the yellow pages. Only one advertised himself as a letterpress printer (the really old fashioned kind with individual bits of metal for each letter).

So I biked over, a little apprehensive of making such a strange request. At first the guy didn’t seem to understand me. Why on earth would I want pictures of that? This was a little hard to answer, as I wasn’t really clear myself. I thought they’d be neat to have and I’d figure out what to do with them when I saw them.

Then he thought I wanted to take some home with me (I don’t know where he got that idea). No, I just wanted to take some pictures here, in the shop. Did I have a camera? Yes.

Type courtesy of folio press, SB
type courtesy of folio press SB
(Note leftmost “F” has been kerned at base)

Then he went off into a back room, where he rummaged for a while. After a bit he returned with a sort of open wooden box or tray with compartments for the letters. There weren’t very many, and in no order I could figure out. He told me I could take as many pictures as I wanted.

But the letters were all glued onto the box.

I had come prepared to take pictures, but it had not occurred to me that I would need a chisel:-)

After a bit of work with my fingernails I managed to extract a few, but they still had bits of glue stuck to the sides and didn’t line up evenly.

My first real job was working at the local museum, and among other things I made signs for the exhibits. If only I’d thought to take pictures back then!


(One of the “other things” I got to do was to repaint a life-sized cement statue of a Brontesaurus — it was an interesting job)

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