Pre-digital Type Specimens: Aggregation, Examination, and Dissemination
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.