When printing was complicated

Font Specimen book 1923
"In my day, we didn't have all these fancy computer things. Printing was much simpler then."

Blah blah blah. Yeah right.

Today we can write, publish and distribute with one click. What could be simpler than that? Blog technology plus RSS do all the hard dirty work that was once done by machines and trained professionals.

If I needed reminding, this book did it: Specimen Book and Catalogue 1923 from the American Type Founders Company. The preface begins:

The printing of 1923 is greatly superior to that of 1900. It has better style, more attractiveness and greater power and dignity. It is more highly appreciated by the clients of the printers, and better prices are paid for it. Better printing has created a better demand for printing. The printers are more prosperous. This great improvement has not come to pass without direction. There has been, in fact, very deliberate direction.

After this plodding prose I want to shout, "But what about the content!?"

But back to the point. The book is fascinating and indeed beautifully produced. (It's also rather grubby.) About 600 pages about fonts follow:

Types
The choicest selection of Publicity Types for the Commercial Printer and the General Advertiser
as well as
the newest and best designs in Job faces, Italics, Texts, Scripts, Shaded Faces, Gothics, Typewriter Faces, Body Types Accessories, etc.

Next come 200 pages about decorative material (think glorified WingDings) and then another 200 about the magnificent, weighty and delicate paraphernalia of printing, from swivel hooks to printing presses.

As for me, I'll just click Publish and hey presto. I'm published.


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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