Typographic Research

Working drawings for Centaur type by Bruce Rogers.  Vault Case Wing folio Z 311 .R6341, folder 1.
Working drawings for Centaur type by Bruce Rogers. Vault Case Wing folio Z 311 .R6341, folder 1.

The Newberry contains myriad examples of printing from all periods. Many such specimens, though not all, are part of the Newberry’s John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, one of the world’s leading collections in its field.

This pathfinder is designed to help find typographic specimens in the Newberry’s collections. In searching, please remember that it is imperative to use a variety of search strategies to get at all the material in our collections.

Searching the Online Catalog

Online, you can search for many designers, presses, illustrators, publishers and printers by name using the Author search function. Examples of Author searches include:

  • Jenson, Nicolas
  • Kelmscott Press
  • Rogers, Bruce

An Author search will bring up material created by a printer, designer, press, etc. So for example, a search for Kelmscott Press will generate a list of books published by the press.

You can also find many examples of types in use – use the Subject function to search by type name:

  • Centaur type
  • Miller type

Be aware that a Subject search for Baskerville (for example) will bring up not only specimens of Baskerville type and Baskerville italic type, but also books about John Baskerville (but not books printed by Baskerville – to find these you must use the Author search).

If you want to search for a specific foundry’s version of a type, use the Subject search:

  • Linotype Caslon
  • Ludlow Garamond
  • Monotype Baskerville

Jaspert, W. P., Encyclopaedia of Type Faces can help in identifying foundries. You can also search for works printed in a specific city, using a Guided Keyword search. Enter the name of the city you are interested in as a Subject Local Geographic search, and the word “Imprints” as a Subject word. For example, Venice and Imprints will give a list of books printed at Venice. You can further sort this list by “oldest first” or “newest first” to get a chronological list.

Searching the Card Catalog

The card catalogs of the Newberry are the only access to about 10% of the collections. Fortunately they are rich in entries for printing subjects. In general, you can use the same strategies as you do for searching online, remembering that all terms (author, title, subject, etc.) are interfiled in a single alphabet. You can look for designers, printers, publishers, illustrators, and presses by name. For places of publication use the separate card file marked “Places” in the “Special Catalogs” aisle.

You cannot, however, search type faces by name in the card catalog. You must first find the name of the foundry that produced the type or a press that employed it, then search for books under the name of the producer/user. Because you are navigating across information fields, a guide like the Encyclopaedia of Type Faces is an essential starting point. The entry on a given type will give you the name of the designer, the name of the foundry, and the dates of production, all of which will help you use the information on the cards.

Type Specimens

Type specimens–books or flyers issued by the makers of type or by printing house–are among the most valuable sources for understanding types as originally designed and produced. Often they include biographical information about designers and valuable advertising prose that gives clues to the original meaning of the design. And the Newberry has one of the largest collections in the world of type specimens. But, type specimens are hard to find and use, and the strange conventions of the online catalogue mean that in some ways it is easier to find things in the cards!

Both online and in the cards, the surest way to find a specimen is to use the corporate name of the producer (online, use the Author search for names):

  • Stempel
  • Feliciano Type Foundry

To do a more general search for type specimens, first look online under the heading “Type and Typefounding” followed by the country that interests you:

  • Type and type-founding Czechoslovakia
  • Type and type-founding France

Next check the card catalog under “Type – Specimens.” While the computer displays specimens by country, the card catalog arranges them alphabetically by the name of the company. In addition to individually cataloged specimens there is a large collection of sheet specimens under the call number, Case Wing Z 250 .A5. These are advertising sheets and small catalogs, arranged in two alphabets, one by the name of the type face and the other by the producing company. An inventory can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room.

Uncataloged Items

The Wing curator, Paul Gehl, maintains extensive files on printers, designers, and companies in the printing and publishing field. A typed index to these files is on the open shelf in the Special Collections reading room, and you can also ask to see Paul if you have questions.

Open Shelf

A few basic reference books are on the open shelf in the Special Collections reading room. The most important of these for typographic projects are:

W. P. Jaspert. Encyclopedia of Type Faces.

Stanley Morison. A Tally of Types.

D. B. Updike. Printing Types, Their History, Forms and Use.