I was fortunate to catch a wonderful (and rare) vintage letterpress type show in Shoreditch, here in London, just days before it ended (thanks Jovanna). The amazing New North Press put on a show called “Reverting to Type” featuring an impressively curated array of prints, made entirely of block printing letterforms.
At first glance, the prints almost appear to be antiques, plucked from the Victorian era, but on closer inspection, they are laced with a wit and edge that is unmistakably now. The juxtapostion, while not necessarily new, is always refreshing.
The official show description reads: It is New North Press’ great pleasure to invite you to our very own typographic extravaganza!
Curated by Graham Bignell & Richard Ardagh, Reverting to Type will showcase the work of twenty contemporary letterpress practitioners from around the world, contributions from three leading art colleges and the first eight in an ongoing series of prints with especially invited collaborators.
Though the show is now over, prints can be purchased via New North’s website.
It may be quite clear from a cursory review of my posts, that I am rather drawn to historical design and typography. While I am undeniably a creature of modern times, I just love old stuff. Old cars, old books, old art movements, and old type.
Well, I am certainly not alone, and while a curiosity has always been there among us designers, there is an interesting phenomenon at work at the moment – analog is becoming digital like never before – old is becoming new; vintage is vogue; forgotten is being remembered, and all in an unabashed celebration of “wear and tear” – the more visible clues of ‘non-modern-ness’ the better! Case in point is the wonderful collection of vintage block type from Oliver Weiss’ Walden Type Co. Not only have they curated a really fresh array of “real vintage” letter forms (fresh even relative to the wonderful collections that Dover has produced in their books for years and years – more recently with digital scans included), but their collections are very affordably priced. The Wild West Press collection (which the above specimens come from ) consists of 47 fonts and hundreds of little clip art pics, all for $49.95 USD.
Weiss explains the origins of Wild West Press collection here (from the introduction in the accompanying manual): To create this set of fonts, we have sifted through original material from the Library of Congress and a great number of other historical sources. Where ever possible,we identified the fonts used in each specimen and thus arrived at a short list of typefaces that printers appear to have favored most. We are pleased to make these fonts available for the first time in the context of printing in the Old West. As they are taken from original specimens they carry the chinks and dings of hard use, which should only add to their charm.
Well, I love them (of course), and though I only bought the collection about a week ago, I’ve already used them for the titles of a documentary I’m developing called Alfred & Jakobine (news to come!). Anyway, great work Walden Type Co. Keep it up, and thanks for your efforts and for remembering the forgotten. A small sampling from the 47 beautiful, scratched, uneven, worn fonts can be seen below.