there are few things in life better than typography. there are fewer things in life better than metal type for printing. my mind reels to think of anything better than a brand new font of a much-loved typeface cast in foundry metal.
well, gentle reader, as you may have guessed, that’s exactly what i’m talking about. eighteen-point Perpetua Italic.
a chance meeting at an antique woodworking tool show reintroduced me to dan jones from Pygment Press (more about what i found at the show in a later post). dan casts beautiful foundry type on his Montype Supercaster. i have two other fonts from Pygment : 26-point Sanders Condensed and 18-point Perpetua Roman. both print amazingly well and the Perpetua that i have is one of my ‘go to’ fonts when i really want something to look good.
when i first got the Perpetua Roman i printed a small broadside of a Thomas Merton poem. the type bit into the weird paper i used really well and maintained its edge on a difficult surface.
because of its size, the type sets really easily in the composing stick. but the best thing about the type is the crispness of the printed image. all metal type for printing is made from a combination of lead (for malleability), tin (for toughness) and antimony (a hardening agent). foundry type is harder than type that is cast to be used once or twice and melted down. most new type that i have is not foundry metal and you can feel the difference on the press and on the paper.
Perpetua was designed by the very famous british catholic sexual deviant Eric Gill and released by Monotype in 1929. originally (and on the misguided advice of the very weird Stanley Morison), the companion ‘italic’ was a sloped roman named Felicity, but Monotype hated it so much that Gill redesigned the italic that we know today. one of the things i like best about Perpetua is the generous ascenders and descenders; which means you can set it with little leading and have it not look cramped. for me, the lowercase ‘b’s, ‘d’s, ‘f’s, ‘g’s and ‘y’s in both the roman and italic are of surpassing beauty. the ampersands are fantastic as well.
i think Perpetua is a more lasting testament to Gill’s genius with letterforms than the more famous calligraphic sans serif that bears his name.
one of the things that makes Pygment’s casting exciting is the addition of very useful @ symbols, which are invaluable to a modern letterpress lad like me with the advent of the interwebs and email addresses and such.
without new type to use, as printers, we are going to be screwed royally. and these typefaces need to be fairly readily available and the typefaces need to be good as well. we are not going to be able to print with Copperplate Gothic, Cheltenham and Cooper Black forever. there are so few resources for new typefaces that we have to find a way to support and nurture those that we have.
whenever i get some new (or new to me) type, the question becomes what to print with the new type. it may sound weird, but the first job you work on with a typeface will determine your feelings about that type in the future. a good first choice is a good thing. so, since the type arrived i’ve been trying to think what i should do with it. letterhead (i just used my last sheet)? business cards (i don’t have any right now)? some quote by a famous dead person that i like (the path to real obscurity is littered with blindpigpress quotation broadsides)?
i’m still thinking about it.
and that’s one of the best parts of the letterpress design process : because you can touch and feel the type, it will tell you what to do with it.
you just have to remember to listen.