You are reading Typologia, by Frederick W. Goudy

I : By Way of Explanation

MY STUDY of type design and type founding was begun almost forty years ago. At that time, little instructive, constructive, or accurate information was easily available with regard to the various steps involved in the making of a face of type; and this dearth of precise information, it seems, has persisted from Gutenberg's time to the present. That section of Moxon's Mechanick Exercises [1683] which relates to the subject of type cutting and founding is somewhat out of date; at best, it is not of any great value to the beginner seeking information on present-day methods. Until a few years ago, Fournier's Manuel Typographique, a much more interesting treatise,was obtainable only in French. Other works on type making are too general in their scope, or provide too little material in concrete form, to be of much use.

Within the past few years, articles on the cutting of punches for driving matrices have appeared here and there, in articles which in themselves are admirable enough but which are likely to convey a wrong impression as they imply that punch cutting by hand is still the method generally employed, instead of stating frankly that its use is occasional rather than general, and that except for the cutting more or less infrequently of a private type, punch cutting by hand has practically been abandoned. It is true that composing machines--Monotype, Linotype, Intertype, Ludlow, and others--do employ machine-cut punches for driving matrices, but probably more than nine-tenths of all matrices for casting hand-set types are engraved directly without the intervention of any punch at all.

It must not be inferred, however, that punch cutting by hand--that is, by the hand of the artist himself--is something that should be dropped; it would be as correct to say that the art and craft of the wood engraver should be entirely abandoned. I intend merely to emphasize the fact that engraving by machine has usurped somewhat the functions of hand production in the attempt to secure greater speed and efficiency in the production of types.

When writers on the crafts deprecate the displacement of hand-cut punches by the machine-cut ones, what they say often betrays their ignorance. Much that they write is based, indeed, on theory and not on fact. I agree with them up to a certain point, but I would direct their attention to the atrocities produced in the first half of the nineteenth century, when all types were hand cut; there certainly must be something else besides "hand cutting" to give distinction to a type. Too often they confuse the thing itself and the method of its production. The machine has not killed good craftsmanship; the machine in the hand of the craftsman is merely a more intricate tool than any that was available to the earlier worker, and enables him to carry out his own creative idea more exactly than can be done when the work is passed into the hands of artisans employed to perform the various processes singly: they obviously cannot realize fully just what was in the type creator's mind, and therefore cannot carry out the work absolutely in the spirit in which he worked.

I hold that if the final printed result is satisfactory to the creator of it, and to the viewer of it as well, the method of its production is in a sense immaterial. Of course, a bald statement like this requires qualification, but I shall not attempt it at this time; it will probably develop in the course of the pages following.

On an evening in November, 1888, while William Morris and Emery Walker, his neighbor, were walking home together from a lecture on "Printing" by Mr. Walker, Morris said, "Let's make a new fount of type"--and with that casual remark the Kelmscott Press, it may be said, was born. What Morris remarked on that occasion to Walker, I said many times to Mrs. Goudy in the twenty-odd years past, but unlike Morris, who made drawings only for his "new fount of type," I have not only made designs for my types, but for many of them I have also made the patterns and engraved the matrices, work like that which was done so admirably for Morris from his drawings by the late Edward P. Prince, dean of England's great punch cutters.

In the Literary Supplement of The Times [London], for March 23, 1921, George Moore once pointed out that by offering his books for sale in limited editions in advance of their publication he escaped the uncertainties and exigencies of a dependence upon the general book-buying public. He asserted that only by such means could the handicraft of good printing in this mechanical age be preserved. He complained also that the craft of founding type was being killed by automatic type casters and that it was difficult to get "a new fount of handmade" type. He displayed here a lamentable ignorance of the craft of type founding and the methods by which a type comes into being. He mistook the mere making of a type by hand for its design. When it is exactly reproduced either by hand or by machine, and cast either by hand in a hand mold or in an automatic caster, -footnote 1- I maintain that no one can say certainly from the print itself which method was used to produce the printing surface.

With this digression, I proceed to the purposes of this book and its scope. It has occurred to me that if I might describe from start to finish the designing of a type and the details of making that type-beginning with the designer's mental attitude and ending with the printed sheet, and illustrating each step as graphically as possible-it might prove interesting to many readers who now accept types almost as a matter of course; and it might also throw light on a matter that Moxon says was "hitherto kept so conceal'd among the Artificers of it, that I cannot learn anyone hath taught it any other," and might supply as well some timely information for booklovers and book collectors, who just now seem more interested in such things than ever before.

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This electronic version of Goudy's Typologia is reproduced by permission of the University of California Press.

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