A Sampling of Type for the Ottawa Press Gang

From the poster sized type sampler printed earlier in the year.

I’m my own worst enemy. I have ages to work on the most recent Ottawa Press Gang project. In this, participating members of the Gang supply a comprehensive sampling of types from their cabinets. My original goal was to do have the work done on this sampler form the foundation of a stand-alone type specimen of all the types in the studio – a kind of record before I send some of the display types off to other homes. But time has had its way, and now I have to rush, the deadline being one week hence.

I love these Press Gang projects; they keep the lead flowing. But I don’t like rushing to a deadline, even though I am utterly hard-wired that way. Having run through all of the 35 trays of type in my possession, and having set in some manner or another the type therein, I know my OPG contribution will be a bit compromised.

I had done the poster-sized sampler last year and learned a few lessons about setting up type specimens, and a few incongruities in the composition of several of my trays of type. Somewhere I described the trays of type that I have acquired from other sources as “quixotic” and I have no intent of changing the description. Having delved more or less exhaustively into all the cabinets, I have found some very intriguing variations on the lay of the California case.

Page layout for my Ottawa Press Gang (OPG) contribution.

Lord Tennyson, the shop foreman, is not pleased with my work. Or my working when he wants his dinner.

For this new project, even after planning the layout, I realized that some of the larger faces (e.g. 60 pt Cloister Black) would have trouble fitting into the prescribed format: 4.25″ wide x 11″ tall, or an 8.5×11 sheet folder lengthwise. So when I say this is a sampler, I really mean a sample – several samples do not include the complete font. Many of the smaller faces will be presented in their full glory, but constraint was necessary. Even thus restrained, my dummy rang in at 16 pages.

Garamond, set and ready to print.

In ideal circumstances, with oodles of time, I’d like to do a specimen with a little more scope. A consistent order. Careful selection of characters, with all of them represented. Spread out, give the layout room to breath, upper case, lower case, figures and small caps on their own lines, and the caps letterspaced. Perhaps opposite, in lieu of illustrations, designs created with the appropriate type. Get some colour into the mix. Well, food for thought, and probably a project down the road. Another thing I like about OPG projects is that they stand as a kind of think-piece or dry run for more ambitious future projects.

(Almost) everything I’ve got.

This week, I’ve been churning through spacing material, leading and quads, filling up half a dozen galley trays with 60+ uppercase and lowercase type. And not done yet: title page, two pages using the type in a design, and a colophon (and my weekend is toast!). I own adequate spacing material for 10, 12, 14 and 24 pt, with barely enough to get by on in 18 pt. Sure enough, eight faces had to be set in that size, and the larger faces – 30, 36, 42, & 60 – require 18 pt spacers in combination with other sizes (e.g. 18 pt + 12 pt spacers works for 30 pt type etc.). And I burned through my supply of 20 pica leading – at least a couple hundred lines, then. I’ll have to cut some more.

Next week: morning, noon, and night on the press.

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