Page 8 - February2017
P. 8

|  Choosing Second Hand Type (1) ||  M Elliston & J Easson  |


       A                                     useless. The lowercase d was often
             regular feature of the Convention
             and of many branch meetings is
                                             missing when left behind in old price lists.
             the popular Bring and Buy Sale. The
       enthusiasm displayed by those present   Maybe the p is now mislaid for the same
                                             reason instead. I can laugh at it now but
       at these affairs, nudging their way to the   I remember buying a half-fount packet
       front of the crowd, is demonstrative of   of Pepita at a sale of type. And what did I
       the way in which most small printers   get for my money? Pepita in 18 point with
       are ever eager for a printing equipment   the characters a-m, A to M and not much
       bargain. Whether or not the printer ever   else! Caveat emptor. A true half-fount
       really needs the type or equipment that   is a small card fount with only enough
       he so avidly buys at bargain prices is   letters to set a headline or title piece. For
       another matter, especially regarding   a collector of the older or rarer types,
       the suitability of the newly-acquired   the synopsis may not be so important.
       face when used in conjunction with the   One good specimen of each character is
       typefaces he already owns and uses.   good enough for him: further copies can
       The choice of new typefaces for the   be made either from reproduction proofs
       expanding print-shop is a subject of its   or from casting in moulds made from
       own. This article concentrates on the   the original type. (Resin castings or from
       factors the printer should bear in mind   3D printing, etc.) For the amateur who is
       when proposing to buy second-hand type.  trying to save money by buying cheaply,
          Perhaps it would be a rather sweeping   the cost of sorts obtained in order
       statement to say that one just shouldn’t   to bring the fount up to a reasonable
       buy second-hand type, because         synopsis may well approach the amount
       frequently types are inked only once   he has saved; and that assumes that
       or twice before the beginner tires of   sorts are still available. The tyro should
       his new toy and then sells out, but the   familiarise himself with the approximate
       inexperienced printer should certainly   proportions of the characters in both card
       exercise much care and judgement      founts and large-weight founts, even if
       before making such purchases, and then   only to check brand-new type straight
       proceed only after expert advice.     from the supplier.
          Probably the most important aspect of      Another important factor is the amount
       the proposed purchase is the synopsis   of wear to which the type has been
       of the fount. Are all or most of the   subjected. The initial inspection must be
       characters present, including punctuation   visual, and badly-worn type is usually self-
       and numerals, in approximately the    evident. Serifs take a lot of punishment
       correct proportions? Are one or more of   and become rounded off; hairlines are
       the vital letters like e or t absent or low in   weak points and may become fl attened
       proportion to the remainder of the fount?   or broken altogether. There may be an
       Printers will often leave a certain word or   actual change in the height of the type
       phrase which they use most frequently   from feet to face (the ‘height-to-paper’)
       standing in a galley or locked up in a   due to excessive pressure or subjection
       chase, and these letters may either get   to a very long run. This can be checked
       separated from the rest of the fount or   by comparing an unused z or x with a
       be so badly worn in comparison with the   well-worn e or better still by using a type-
       letters in the case that they are practically   height gauge. (The open jaws of a good
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