The Museum of Printing Type Libraries

  • US Linotype type drawings (all fonts)
  • British Linotype type drawings (selected fonts)
  • Intertype phototypesetting art (all fonts)
  • Photon phototypesetting art (selected fonts)
  • Photon Korean font art

Drawings were used to make pattern plates. Art includes rubyliths, photo prints, and drawn art.

In our collection there are 3,193 black boxes, specially made for storing the drawings. Each box has 100 to 140 sheets, one for each glyph. Each sheet is numbered and there is a summary sheet indicating what glyphs are enclosed. When we received the collection from the Smithsonian 20 years ago, we inventoried every box and prepared a spreadsheet with information on each box. In many cases, the source of the fonts is indicated.

Larry Oppenberg worked in the letter drawing office and helped us prepare the spreadsheet.

Some sets are for a specific point size, but in many cases they made two sizes and the pattern plates were used to make multiple sizes. These sheets were traced in a pantograph to make a pattern plate and the pattern plate was traced in another pantograph to make the punches.

In some cases, there are drawings but no font was made. In many cases there are glyphs that never appeared in fonts. They substituted generic glyphs like the slash or dash from other fonts.

There are notes on many sheets and color stamps indicate which were converted to phototypesetting. All measurements are in 5 decimal places, which made conversion to the 18 unit system a challenge. Matt Carter was involved in the conversion to phototypesetting.

There are also 120 drawing sets from the British subsidiary, but they are not in boxes and rather eclectic in format.

Thus, 400,000 is an accurate number.

We will be trasnferring all the drawings from the black boxes to clear plastic air-tight boxes. In doing so we expect to add new information to the database. I claimed that 80% of the fonts used in the 20th Century were based on the Linotype type library. Some questioned the figure.

Linotype font dominance

Everyone forgets the phototypesetting and early desktop publishing eras.

From 1920 to 1960 the Linotype library dominated typeface use. There were fewer than 100 US Monotype services and only ATF and Ludlow had unique fonts, mostly for display. Then came Photon, Compugraphic, GSI, Wang, Varityper, Alphatype, Autologic, Triple-I, and many others. They all needed type libraries and stole freely from Linotype. There is no law against this.

I was communications manager for Photon and Compugraphic. They had proofs of Lino fonts enlarged and then traced them with rubylith. I was also at VGC. We paid royalties and Linotype bent over backwards to help. They made proofs from the 4-inch pattern plates.

Thus, from 1960 to 1980, the vast majority of the phototypesetting typefaces were from Linotype. Then came desktop publishing in 1985 and the first PostScript fonts were Linotype’s. And also count some of the PostScript fonts that Microsoft released.

It was not until 1986 and Fontographer, that “new” fonts entered the market, but the classic fonts dominated until the 1990s. Look at the Fifty Books fonts and the text of most ads from the 1950s to the 1980s. Helvetica dominated. And most versions of Times were based on Lino’s Time Roman, not Monotype’s Times New Roman.

And do not forget newspapers. At their height there were over 3,000 dailies and 8,000 weeklies. Linotype type dominated.

The phototypesetting suppliers only began to introduce new designs in the late 1980s. But most of what was used were the traditional typefaces “borrowed” from Linotype.

Thus, the vast majority of typefaces used in the 20th Century were Linotype typefaces or derived from Linotype typefaces. I should have said “in North America,” but worldwide I would still say that the Linotype designs dominated. All those phototypesetting companies sold internationally.

Do not forget that Linotype owned Stempel and Haas and many other European foundries.

We may quibble over my “80%” but the fact remains that Linotype typefaces were the most used in the 20th Century.

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