Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Type Tuesday

Welcome to Type Tuesdays! Each Tuesday we will feature materials from the California Historical Society’s Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing. Today we offer a selection from typographer Dan X. Solo’s typeface calendar from 1972. 

Dan X. Solo of Oakland had an obsession for type. He didn't start out that way, though having a middle initial "X" probably tuned him into the oddities of the alphabet from an early age. He was first of all a stage magician. He had a rich deep voice and a waxed mustache that made him look the part. He had worked as a radio announcer beginning in World War II but after 20 years wanted a less hectic life, so he decided to fall back on his hobby of collecting antique typefaces. To support his hobby he made proofs of 1000 metal typefaces and sent them to ad agencies. His timing was perfect: after the uniform dullness of the 1950s, there was a growing interest in using Victorian types in advertising work. On the East Coast there was Morgan Press with their wood type collection and T. J. Lyons who also made repro-proofs for advertising. Within a decade Solo had amassed over 6000 fonts of type, but he made a wise move. Rather than proofing the types, some of which were badly worn or missing characters, he converted them to film. This way he wouldn't run out of sorts and could provide crisp camera-ready art more easily. Soon his types were widespread and he began sending complete alphabets to Dover Books who produced whole series of books of Victorian alphabets, Art Deco alphabets, quaint cuts, etc. from the Solo collection.

To view more Dan X. Solo material, visit the North Baker Research Library at the California Historical Society. 

Alastair Johnston and Jaime Henderson
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