That’s what it’s all about. Is there anything more exciting than brand new, never-before-used type? Lead never shines so brightly, and laying down the first skin of ink and taking the first impression with it… there’s nothing like it.
Getting it from Swamp Press in Maine to my humble abode is another matter. In spite of Ed Rayer’s heroic efforts to fortify the packages, two of the four split open, and it appears that one size, 36 pt, lost some of its weight on the journey. No lower case ‘l’s, and three missing upper case letters. Geez! I got that size so I could set titles in large type, so I will probably need caps B, K and R at some point. Good thing I didn’t order it for Kubla Khan! uba han? Sounds like a Star Wars character.
Whatever the case, in spite of messed up packages, most of the order arrived pretty much whole. I got 2 more 1/4 strength lots of 12 pt in lower case, since I have plenty upper case in that size; 2 more 14 point, 18 pt, 24 p, 30 pt and 36 pt Italian Oldstyle Roman. The roman portion of the house font is starting to look nicely filled out now; I’ll work on building up the italic over the next few years. It means that I’ve got enough of this book face to do some fairly serious projects, utilizing the large bed of my press. And that is exciting.
Lead isn’t the only way to get ink into paper. Photopolymer and magnesium plates offer the whole array of opportunity that digital design can offer, with a letterpress result. Several noted book artists work this way now. Because lead type is so difficult to acquire and really very expensive, I can see moving that way for some projects. But having one complete metal font in various sizes, in roman and italic, gives a certain freedom as well. Just make sure you choose a font you can live with for years. For me, that would be Italian Oldstyle.
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