Inspiration in a homemade, hand cast font

Posted by on Jan 24, 2010 | No Comments

I was thinking about how the C.C. Stern Type Foundry can play a role in advancing the art of the printed word, and found a bit of inspiration from our friend Jim Rimmer and his limited edition The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Here’s an excerpt from an article in Parenthesis, The Journal of the Fine Press Book Association, Number 9, March 2004:

Then, on the morning of 31 December 2001, while ‘messing about’ in his workshop, Jim found an old flat mat of Goudy Thirty. He had nothing to do that day and decided to see if he could solder some brass to it and cast it on his Monotype composition caster. The experiment worked. If he could make one sort, he thought, he could make 80 — then he’d have a fount.

It’s worth noting that the Monotype composition caster has not seen a new typeface since Gauthiers Series 811 was cut by Monotype for the Imprimerie Nationale in 1978. Those familiar with Monotype machines and their myriad mechanical limitations will know that a homemade face for the Monotype comp caster is something that has never been attempted. ‘I was astounded when he told me what he was going to do,’ said friend and fellow typefounder Paul Duensing on hearing of Jim’s plans for Hannibal. ‘My feeling was that if it hadn’t been done before, it couldn’t be done.’

Jim, a perennial optimist, took the opposite view of the matter. ‘If you don’t know you can’t do it,’ he says, ‘you’re ahead of the game.’

We have “something enduring” in Jim’s gorgeous book and something ephemeral in his making Hannibal Oldstyle, the only known homemade matrix for the Monotype composition caster. There are many more creative acts that need a venue or a hands-on experience to spur them into being.  I hope C.C. Stern Type Foundry will be a place for folks like Jim Rimmer, Chris Stern, you and me to “mess about” and create things both fleeting and enduring.