Hand-printed books of poetry,
Plus tips and supplies for fellow letterpress printers.

Founders Type Alignments

A Mostly Forgotten Feature of Founders Type

Almost all proper Founders type had a feature with American origins.Most their very high quality outputconformed to one of three alignments, so that type from any size within or outside one design family would align at foot if set within the same line, using adjustment leading if required.

What is Founders Type?
Founders type – for example that cast by Stephenson Blake in Sheffield – is cast at a higher temperature and in a much tougher alloy (which normally has a small copper content) compared with type cast on ‘Monotype’ machines.

This alignment was well sustained over many, many years production and though design purists may scoff, it was a most useful practical feature in the composing room's jobbing work.

The three alignments were set so that the depth of ‘beard’ (from the foot of the printed face, down to the foot of the cast body) was a certain number of exact full points.

Many text faces were identically cast to ‘Point Common Line’ as follows:

Size Beard Size Beard
5pt - 6pt 1pt 36pt 7pt
7pt - 10pt 2pt 42pt 8pt
11pt - 16pt 3pt 48pt 10pt
18pt - 20pt 4pt 54pt 11pt
24pt 5pt 60pt 12pt
30pt 6pt 72pt 14pt

Titling faces, i.e. those without a set of lowercase within the design, were cast to ‘Point Title line’, and for thisall types from 5 point to 16 point had an identical one point ‘beard’ 18 and 24 point had two points beard, 30 point to 48 point had three points, and 54 point to 72 point had four points.

And finally there was ‘Point Script Line’ (sometimes called ‘Point Art Line’) which was not only for script faces, but some ‘art’ designs with very long descenders. The extended beards allowed for very long descenders.This alignment had particular value when setting Copperplate Script styles of typeface.

Here's the ‘Point Script Line’ table:

Size Beard Size Beard
6pt - 8pt 2pt 36pt 12pt
10pt 3pt 42pt 14pt
12pt 4pt 48pt 16pt
14pt -16pt 5pt 54pt 18pt
18pt 6pt 60pt 20pt
24pt 8pt 72pt 24pt
30pt 10pt    

This was only true for proper ‘Foundry’ cast type, not normally true for type cast on Monotype Machines. They had a very sophisticated system which evolved over the years, notionally fixed in thousandths of an inch, different for each different type family. This system was often not used with the discipline it deserved. Much second-hand Monotype cast type aligns poorly with other founts that should theoretically be the same. ‘This new 12 point Gill Sans wont align with my old,’ is a common complaint!

You Might Also Like...