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Lectures & Salons

Salon Series 37: Recovering the Forgotten Women of Metal Type Design

with Bethany Qualls

Dig into overlooked design history and get a sneak peek at Letterform Archive’s forthcoming research hub on women in metal type.

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Ever wonder who originally designed your favorite typefaces? Many of the fonts we use today (such as Futura, Helvetica, Baskerville) originated in the metal type era (late 1800s to 1950s) when hot metal typesetting became the norm for printing, revolutionizing what had been a mostly manual process for centuries. Much of today’s typographic design relies on norms from this period when Linotype and Monotype dominated. Yet, with few exceptions, women’s contributions in the metal type era have mostly been erased or ignored.

For this Salon, Bethany Qualls takes us on a deep dive into these often-overlooked women and their contributions to type history. Even though others have researched early women type designers, no single, publicly accessible resource exists to synthesize all of what we do know. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at her role as a Mellon Public Scholar in creating Letterform Archive’s forthcoming finding aid and research hub which aims to fill this gap. Highlights will include examples of type specimens from the Archive collection, what’s been left out of most English language resources thus far, tips on how to research in languages you don’t speak written in alphabets you can’t read, and the project’s future phases.

About the Salon Series

Letterform Archive’s Salon Series is a regular event featuring a deeper dive into specific collections or themes within the Archive. Salon recordings are available exclusively to members. Visit your member benefits page to access the video.

Bethany Qualls

Bethany Qualls is a scholar, editor, and teacher based in San Francisco. She loves books and print culture so much she now has a PhD in English Literature from the University of California, Davis. When not thinking about gossip and new media in the eighteenth century, she can be found editing for Broadview Press, teaching college writing, and trying to name the fonts used in movie credits. Her archival recovery work has been recognized as a Lewis Walpole Library fellow, American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies Women’s Caucus Catherine Macaulay Prize winner, and Mellon Public Scholar working with Letterform Archive in the summer of 2021, where she is a long-time volunteer. Over the past two decades Bethany has written about everything from closet organization to Charlotte Lennox, Britney Spears to translation best practices. Her recent publications include essays in the collection A Spy on Eliza Haywood (Routledge, 2021), ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and, most recently, “Gossip’s Ephemeral Longevity: Power, Circulation, and New Media” in NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies (Spring 2022).

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