Sunday, December 14, 2014

A “Lost” Goudy Type Becomes Our New Companion

Goudy’s Companion Old Style Comes to the TBAS

A sample setting of Companion Old Style
arranged by Richard L. Hopkins
       A rare and virtually unknown typeface designed by the acclaimed American type designer Frederic Goudy now has a new home here at the University of Tampa. Thanks to a David Delo Research grant and the generosity of the Lester Feller Family, the only known surviving mats for Goudy’s Companion Old Style type have become jewels in the crown of the Feller Family Collections at the Tampa Book Arts Studio.
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     Richard Mathews, Dana Professor of English and Writing at the University of Tampa, and Director of the TBAS, received a David Delo Research grant from the University of Tampa to acquire, document, cast, and write about Goudy’s little-known type, Companion Old Style.  As part of the grant he will give a talk on the history and discovery of the mats at the Tampa Book Arts Studio on January 31, 2015, where he will explain the background and design of the roman and italic fonts and demonstrate their casting on the Studio’s antique Monotype “Orphan Annie” caster.

     The brass Monotype matrices arrived in sixteen battered plastic cases, each containing a complete roman or italic alphabet. They are the masters for casting an exceedingly rare private typeface, never made commercially available. Commissioned in 1927 by Henry B. Quinan, Art Director for the Woman’s Home Companion magazine, the type was designed for exclusive use in the magazine, which had a national circulation of more than four million in the 1930s. Goudy worked on the project for several years, during which time he taught himself how to engrave the mats, developing his own tools for cutting the shape of each letter, number, and punctuation symbol into a flat brass matrix designed for use on the Monotype casting machine. The finished types first appeared in the The Woman’s Home Companion for June, 1931. In the end, not only did he make the patterns for each letter, but he also cut each of the mats himself. The mats today include 12-, 14-, 16-, 18-, 21-, 24-, 36-, and 42-point sizes in roman and italic.

How Companion Made Its Way to the TBAS

     The mats were discovered and saved by Lester Feller in 1976 when the equipment of Monsen Typographers of Chicago was being liquidated. Feller, an amateur printer and type enthusiast who founded and operated the Twin Quills Press in Niles, Illinois, and later established the Printer’s Row Printing Museum in Chicago, collected antique types and cuts throughout the 1960s and 1970s for his serious letterpress hobby that he pursued from home base in a crowded garageAt the liquidation Les noticed the unidentified mats in custom Monsen Typographers plastic boxes with the Monotype number 359 identification, a number he was not familiar with, and he took a few mats out of the case to see if he could recognize the face. Though he couldn’t identify the type, he thought the slant of the letter “o” was interesting and he noticed that the old style numerals had a certain flair, and so decided to buy the mats without knowing what they were.

* * *

     Les later showed a one-line printed setting of the word “Companion” to Rich Hopkins at a meeting of hobby printers, the Almagamated Printers Association Wayzgoose in Indiana in 1977, still not knowing what he had. Printers often saved scraps and type samples from job work that could show what a typeface looked like, and Les thought that “Companion” might be a word from a headline or ad to show the type. It certainly didn’t strike him as the name of a type, let alone being a type designed by Frederic Goudy. He had unsuccessfully looked through Monotype lists in various catalogs and specimen books, but he had not been able to find number 359. Hopkins was also intrigued, and turned to his own extensive references, including two different typeface encyclopedias, but the mats were not listed in any of the usual sources.  Rich remained on the chase, following various clues that eventually included that one-line sample word, and he was able to identify the mats as Companion Old Style, an exclusive, private type commissioned by the art director of the Woman’s Home Companion, and used exclusively by the magazine.

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     In 1979 Rich Hopkins wrote the whole story of the discovery and identification of the type in a beautifully printed issue of his Typographic Curiosities, set in Companion types cast from the mats that Feller had loaned especially for the booklet. Dr. Richard Mathews, who was directing the Konglomerati Florida Foundation for Literature and Book Arts at that time, knew Rich through the American Typecasting Fellowship and soon heard about the Companion discovery. He contacted Les and was able to arrange to have enough of the type cast to complete the first book ever issued in the private typeface: a collection of poetry by Ohio poet Hale Chatfield entitled Water Colors. Published in 1979, it was typeset by hand in Companion, letterpress printed, and hand bound at Konglomerati Press, with partial funding by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

     Feller and Mathews had lost touch over the years since then, but as the Tampa Book Arts Studio was first taking shape a decade ago, they made contact again. Les and his wife, Elaine, were spending winters in Florida, and they arranged to stop at the University of Tampa to see the new setup.  Presses, type, and typecasting equipment from Konglomerati had been supplemented by donations from others, and the growing collection reminded Les of what they had hoped to do with the Printer’s Row Printing Museum: inform and inspire others with an appreciation of the history and the desire to keep the equipment in use.
Future Legacy of Companion at the Tampa Book Arts Studio

Les Feller speaking about his 1979
discovery of the Companion mats
     Les and Elaine established the Feller Family Collections as part of the special collections library of the Tampa Book Arts Studio. They have contributed hundreds of original antique printer’s blocks from the early twentieth century children’s books published by the Donohue Company of Chicago, antique letterpress models, displays of wood-engraving processes, hundreds of printed books and pamphlets on letterpress printing, and a collection of antique letterpress posters and broadsides from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century. Many of these are framed, and now hang permanently in the TBAS.
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     Today the Companion Old Style types will form a unique living legacy as the highlight of the Feller Family Collections, offering a very special opportunity for students to handle a private typeface found nowhere else in the world. Faculty and students together will explore new ways of utilizing this distinctive and nearly lost typeface by America’s best-known and most prolific type designer.  Here it will be cast sparingly and used for special projects. Most importantly it will offer students a hands-on experience with history. In the process, they will also contribute to history and scholarship themselves as they find ways to feature and reveal the possibilities for expression that this virtually unknown typeface holds.

Frederic Goudy wrote of Companion in his book A Half Century of Type Design and Typography 
“Companion Old Style and its italics show greater consistent
original features than any other face I have ever made.”

The Tampa Book Arts Studio is thrilled to be the permanent home for this extraordinary type.

Friday, October 24, 2014

TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Visits Lead Graffiti in Delaware

Jill Cypher and Ray Nichols in the Lead Graffiti studio, Newark, Delaware.
      When Tampa Book Arts Studio Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi headed North last month to visit relatives and friends, he was happy to see that his road trip would take him near Newark, Delaware, where the creative letterpress studio Lead Graffiti is located. Jill Cypher and Ray Nichols, the studio’s owners, greeted our “itinerate inquirer of all things letterpress” with gracious and overwhelming hospitality. 
      Lead Graffiti not only produces unique and innovative books, broadsides, and other book arts pieces, but Jill and Ray, and Ray’s son, Tray, also do commercial letterpress commissions. They work with traditional materials in surprising and contemporary ways. Their studio resources include a variety of traditional wood and foundry types, supplemented by new and wonderful wood type that they have designed and manufactured entirely in-house.
An example of the wood type made at Lead Graffiti.
      During Carl’s visit, Jill and Ray generously took the time to show him around and explain some of their techniques.  They also presented him with some inspiring samples of their work to share with the TBAS associates. One of the most interesting broadsides is from the 2014 series of their “Tour de Lead Graffiti” project. The sample print they sent back to Tampa is one of twenty-one posters interpreting the stages of this year’s Tour de France bicycle race held in July in France and nearby European countries.

Some of this year’s posters from Tour de Lead Graffiti.

      Each day during the Tour de France, Jill, Ray, and a team of collaborators watched television coverage of the race and related activities to soak up the atmosphere, and to catch some of the memorable commentary, interviews, and incidents. They would then go to lunch and discuss how to translate and interpret their impressions into a poster using wood and metal types, decorative elements, and colored inks on a 14.5” x 22.5” sheet. What is immediately obvious about this project is the spontaneity that the finished work communicates. Even the composition and lockup were done directly on the bed of their Vandercook press without preparation.
 Bringing the Tour to TBAS.

      The posters are limited editions—this year being the fourth in their yearly series—and copies of many of them remain available for purchase. Check out Lead Graffiti’s web site to see more of the series, along with some of the other great stuff they are doing:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Project: Proofing Antique Donohue Blocks from the Feller Family Collections

Carl Mario Nudi, at the Vandercook 4 in the background, has already completed more than two hundred proofs.

One of the most interesting projects this summer has been the proofing of our complete holdings of antique blocks from the M. A. Donohue & Company of Chicago.  The blocks are just one component of the Les Feller Family Collections now at the Tampa Book Arts Studio. Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi is leading the effort, with help from Joshua Steward, Caitlin Carty, and others. The project involves unwrapping each block, cleaning away at least the first layers of accumulated ink, dust, and dirt with the help of brushes, toothbrushes, and a variety of solvents, and pulling a proof.
One cover block after cleaning, ready to be inked and proofed.

Carl Mario Nudi pulls a proof from the block.
When the project is finished, the studio will have two complete notebooks of proofs that will serve as a catalog of all the blocks in the Feller Family Collections. Donor Lee Harrer and others are already busy locating actual books to match the plates, and this week Carl found a copy of The Natural History ABC.  His copy of the complete book arrived just after he had finished proofing that set of blocks. But, as is often the case with Donohue Company books, the interior and exterior blocks are not always paired consistently from printing to printing. The inside blocks in the case of Natural History are completely different in this physical copy from the blocks held in our collection. This appears to be a standard practice of the company, which supplied young children with interesting and inexpensive books. Donohue & Co. evidently reprinted quickly to replenish stocks, and they appear to have been happy to swap around the texts, as long as they made sense. The outside covers are identical, and both our blocks and the printed book are identified as Series No. 120.
The printed cover, together with our first proof of the black block, which still needs makeready.
Most of the interior blocks in our collection include the signature of the illustrator, Constance White; however, the interior pages in the printed copy are by multiple illustrators—W. A. Cranston, Stanley Berkeley, and Harrison Weir—and they show a range of dates from 1873-1890.  Neither the printed copy nor the set of blocks is dated, though our blocks appear to have been made sometime between 1900 and 1920.

With summer nearly over, there is still a great deal of proofing to be done to complete the project, but each printing session brings fresh discoveries and delightful surprises.  We are looking forward to knowing much more about the full archive—which includes well over four hundred blocks—and about the Donohue Company by summer's end.

Joshua Steward proofs another sheet on the Vandercook 4.

Friday, August 1, 2014

TBAS Library Highlights: Rare Book from American Printer Isaiah Thomas

A battered, heavily worn leather binding from the nineteenth century conceals one of the gems of the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections: the Columbian Dictionary of the English Language published in 1800 by the great American printer and patriot Isaiah Thomas in partnership with his friend and fellow publisher Ebenezer T. Andrews.

Our copy is a gift from our collections chief, J. B. Dobkin, and is one of only nine surviving copies that we have been able to locate in libraries throughout the world. Dobkin describes it as "extremely rare."   Our copy is inscribed with the name of John Lesslie, who lived with his wife, Polly Hyde, in Plymouth, Vermont.

The book was compiled by Yale-educated Massachusetts teacher Caleb Alexander and includes “many new words peculiar to the United States, and many words of general use not found in any other English Dictionary.”  The elaborate title page also states that “the whole is calculated to assist foreigners in acquiring a just pronunciation of the English language, and to be used as a school book by any who wish to study the language grammatically.”

Isaiah Thomas was born in Boston in 1749 and in his youth was apprenticed to a printer.  He is widely known for his publication of the famous eighteenth-century newspaper named the Massachusetts Spy, which he established just about the time he turned twenty-one. In it he championed American Patriot politics from 1770 to 1776 and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.  Thomas also printed and published the New England Almanac (1775-1803), published many other important books, established a paper mill, and wrote and published the first comprehensive printing history in the U.S.,  The History of Printing in America (1808).

Thursday, July 3, 2014

One of our favorite things

So many gems are tucked away in the Tampa Book Arts Studio library that it’s difficult to choose one to inaugurate this series of posts about the “best” of the collection. We plan to feature one item, or a related group of items, regularly on this blog, so check back often and see what we've brought out to delight you. Since there are nearly 8,000 items in the collection, it will be a long time before we run out of the “best” of what we have to share.

     We decided to begin the series with the copy of An Essay on Typography that came to us as part of Lee Harrer's generous donation. This first edition was published in June 1931 in an edition of 500 copies. Eric Gill (1882-1940) not only wrote and illustrated the book, he also printed it by hand, with his son-in-law, Rene Hague. This book exemplifies Gill’s versatility. His great talents complemented one another in the fields of sculpture, type design, writing, illustration, engraving, and printing, and he made this book at a high point in his career, having just completed the design of Gill Sans types and finished a major sculptural commission for reliefs on the headquarters building overlooking St. James's Park for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, which was awarded a London Architectural Medal in 1931 from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
    Gill first trained to be an architect, but gave it up after meeting and studying with the renowned calligrapher Edward Johnston. After that meeting, he became interested in calligraphy and the cutting of letters in stone, and the art of sculpture generally. His work exemplifies the Art Deco style and unashamedly portrays human sexuality and the body. He and his wife moved to Ditchling in Sussex, England, in 1903, where he founded the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic after World War I. The Guild and the workshops he established later were communities of craftsmen that put into practice the anti-industrial ideas that Gill propounded in essays on art and the modern world.
     His career took a new turn after Stanley Morison, the type designer most famous for the ubiquitous Times New Roman, invited Gill to design new type faces for the Monotype Corporation. The results of their collaboration include Perpetua, Gill Sans, and Joanna. American type designer Beatrice Warde was also employed at Monotype when Gill was working for them, and was inspired by Gill’s Perpetua type to write her famous broadside titled "This Is a Printing Office." (Warde was also the model for his woodcut of a female nude called “La Belle Sauvage.”) The Joanna type was specifically designed for Gill’s own press, and he used it to set An Essay on Typography. The year 1931 also marked the publication of Gill's masterpiece in the field of book design: The Four Gospels, published by the Golden Cockerel Press.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Christmas in Midsummer for TBAS Library

The Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections received an unexpected summertime visit from Santa Claus as donor Lee J. Harrer brought in some special vintage gifts that complement and showcase the antique printing blocks in our Les Feller Family Collections.  Lee is extending the Harrer Collection of Books about Books to include original editions published by Donohue & Co.  of Chicago that are printed from the antique blocks that were rescued and preserved by Les Feller, who discovered them in the vaults of the Chicago printer. They are now a treasured part of the TBAS Feller Family Collections. (See our post about a title, Jolly Jingles, discovered early on in the Collection.)

This color cover is from the Santa Claus Big Picture Book published by Donohue about one hundred years ago. The Feller Collection blocks include many sets of four-color separations, along with some engravings intended to be printed in a single color.  The Studio plans to produce limited-edition prints from the original blocks and will be making them available in portfolio sets as a fundraising activity.  Meantime, we look forward to being inspired by antique examples of the original printings, thanks to Lee’s book-collecting skills and generosity.

If you happen to have original children’s books from Donohue and Company that you would like to contribute to the library, please contact us at

Friday, June 13, 2014

23 Students Take Letterpress Printing and Publishing Course

THE TAMPA BOOK ARTS STUDIO WAS FILLED TO OVERFLOWING this Spring with twenty-three University of Tampa students enrolled in a course entitled “Printing, Publishing & Book Arts.” The course was taught by University of Tampa faculty members Richard Mathews, director of the studio and a professor of English and Writing, and Kendra Frorup, a sculptor and mixed media artist and a professor of Art, assisted by the TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi and Studio Associate Joshua Steward. The class met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the 14-week semester.

Students surveyed the history of printing and publishing from incunabula to contemporary artists’ books.  They studied type design and typography from historical and digital angles, and they explored hands-on aspects of letterpress printing.

Nearly every available surface in the studio was utilized while students learned typesetting by hand from the California job case. As they became more familiar with the types available to them, they designed and printed limited edition postcards, larger broadsides with two or more colors, and they planned and completed a variety of individual projects. Most of the students also learned to set and cast lines of type on the Ludlow Typograph, which gave them an even broader selection of type styles and sizes than those found in the cases of vintage foundry types in the studio.  

Frorup instructed students throughout the semester in the making of paper and showed them techniques for producing decorative paste papers and marbled papers. She also taught the students several binding techniques and worked individually with them to help them master different stitches and book forms. Everyone completed at least one binding exercise employing the pamphlet stitch and another using a stab binding.

They also gained experience and confidence in using the array of letterpress equipment in the studio, from composing sticks to galleys to furniture and quoins.  They all completed limited edition letterpress runs using our Vandercook presses—a Model 4 and Model 219AB. They took on the responsibility of printing the work they designed, which involved setting, proofing, and correcting their type, preparing and locking-up forms, and registering their sheets.

The last weeks of the course became a time for experimentation with different materials and with the traditional forms of printing. A few tackled split fountain (or “rainbow roll”) printing, others tried their hand at carving wood or linoleum blocks, monotype printing, collography, screen printing, hand-tinting, and even wood working. The students’ final projects were varied. Many included binding as well as printing, and some created chapbooks of poetry, stories, or essays. The course concluded with a session for the students to show and comment on the work they had done—and to collect all of the letterpress postcards into a die-cut and letterpress-printed portfolio packet designed to hold a complete class set (shown in slideshow below).

Click on photos within the slideshows to see larger versions

Special thanks to Jennifer Deg and Jack Whitaker for additional photographs