In September, Montréal will host the annual conference of ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale). Letterform Archive’s Associate Curator Stephen Coles will give a short presentation about one of the foundations of our collection: typeface specimens.
Type specimens have become highly sought-after ephemera, not only among type and graphic designers, but all kinds of researchers and collectors of culture. The Archive is building one of the largest and most accessible collections of type specimens in the world. In 2015 we acquired the collection of the late Dutch publisher Jan Tholenaar, dramatically increasing our holdings of foundry publications, both bound catalogs and ephemera.
What makes type specimens so appealing? What do they tell us about the history of type marketing and production? How did they reshape graphic design and inform the use of specific typefaces? What are the challenges of digitizing specimens and sharing them with the world? How are contemporary designers using and learning from them? This talk will touch on these topics, present some of the most striking and rare examples from the Archive collection, and announce a new publication focused on specimens of the 1920s–60s, the height of foundry ephemera publishing.
Stephen Coles, Letterform Archive’s Associate Curator & Editorial Director, joined the staff after serving on our Board of Directors since its inception. Born in Salt Lake City, he moved to San Francisco in 2004 to serve as FontShop’s creative director. He later worked as an independent consultant, connecting font makers with font users, and wrote the book The Anatomy of Type. With his background in design and journalism, combined with an obsession for type history, Stephen is responsible for the online face and voice of the Archive, and helps to shape the future of the collection. He will continue to publish the influential websites Typographica and Fonts In Use which will now frequently feature content from the Archive.