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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Type Tuesday - Mergenthaler Linotype Company's Monticello

Monticello typeface, cast in 1796 by Binny and Ronaldson's Philadelphia type foundry, is considered to be the first typeface designed and manufactured in the United States. As a transitional serif typeface, Monticello was a departure from the Old Style tradition of type, where there was little variance of thick and thin strokes, small, short serifs, and which more closely resembled the human movement of the hand, toward the Modern typeface with designs reflecting sharper forms, higher contrast and less humanistic movement as presses become more industrialized. 

In the 1940s, Mergenthaler Linotype Company's Vice President for Typeface Development, Chauncey H. Griffith, partnered with Princeton University Press' P.J. Conkwright to embark on the laborious task of converting Monticello hand-set type to Linotype. Their work, finally completed in 1949, was displayed in the fifty volume Papers of Thomas Jefferson, published by the Princeton University Press. 

Mergenthaler Linotype Company promoted Monticello's "inherent readability" and "optical harmony," making the typeface an ideal choice for the printing of books and newspapers throughout the 1950s. In the mid-1960s Mergenthaler seems to seek out a different audience. Their advertisement, seen below, attempts to sell hip art directors - who were probably up to their necks with ad copy printed in Cooper Black and Helvetica type - on the staid Monticello type. A wig stand donning a Thomas Jefferson-style coif espouses the modern-ness of Monticello typeface to a seemingly indifferent wig stand sporting a severe brushcut.

The ad copy encourages the "astute art director" to bring the "back-country Baskerville" to modern day swinging uptown. The "back-country Baskerville" being a playful derision of Monticello type. Monticello, Virginia, home to Thomas Jefferson, was certainly a back country burg compared to England's bustling 18th century Birmingham, where Baskerville, another serif transitional type, was designed by John Baskerville in 1757.

Here is a complete specimen of Mergenthaler's Monticello type.

Jaime Henderson,

Monday, November 24, 2014

Manuscript Monday—"Idiom tudor," "I am afraid"

The Asbury Harpending papers (see last week's post) contain scores of ciphered telegrams and letters. While a key exists to help decipher the correspondence of the early 1870s, later telegrams are encoded according to a different system (and represent Harpending's continuing speculation on the mining stock market after the Diamond Hoax fiasco). The only clue to this system is the two-sided telegram reproduced below. On the reverse, Harpending decoded his associate's ominous words—"Idiom tudor," "I am afraid."

Castings telegram to Asbury Harpending, 1881, Asbury Harpending papers, MS 950, California Historical Society

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Type Tuesday - Hamiltons Specimens of Wood Type Faces

The Hamilton Manufacturing Company, of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, offered a variety of wood types, including ornaments, silhouettes, perpetual calendars and borders, in the 17th edition of their Specimens of Wood Type. 

Wood type was a popular alternative to metal type because large letters - perfectly suited for broadsides and large format advertising - could be more reliably and cheaply produced than metal type. 

The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin houses the Hamilton Manufacturing Company's collection of 1.5 million pieces of wood type and is dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. 

Jaime Henderson,

Monday, November 17, 2014

Manuscript Monday—Swindlers and ciphers

It's not every day that an archivist gets to catalog a collection with the subject headings, "Swindlers and swindling" and "Cipher and telegraph codes," so I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when I discovered the cipher key reproduced below in the papers of the extravagantly named Asbury Harpending.

Harpending was a secessionist conspirator (pardoned by President Lincoln in 1864) with an insatiable appetite for investment and speculation in mining ventures throughout the Western United States and Mexico. His name will forever be associated with the Diamond Hoax, that great swindle uncovered by geologist Clarence King in 1872. Papers at CHS provide a fascinating, if befuddling, record of Harpending's role in the scam. Note the ciphers for diamonds, rubies, and sapphires in the key below. Was Harpending really an innocent dupe? This archivist is not convinced.

Key to cipher, 1871?, Asbury Harpending papers, MS 950, California Historical Society
Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Type Tuesday - More American Type Founders Company's business stationery

The American Type Founders Company offered so many examples of beautiful business stationery we are featuring a few more of our favorites in this week's Type Tuesday!

Your letters are your own personal representatives. 

Considering its appeal, the extra cost of good stationery is negligible.

Quality stationery instantly creates a most favorable impression. 

Good paper and effective typography answers the stationery question.

Jaime Henderson,

Monday, November 10, 2014

Manuscript Monday—California y los Moscovitas

In this week's Manuscript Monday we travel back in time, from the Gold Rush to the eighteenth century, when Spanish anxieties about the Russian menace to California were at a high boil. According to Claudio Saunt in his book, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014), this manuscript map, drawn by Pedro Calderón y Henriquez, literally exaggerates the size and proximity of the Kamchatka Peninsula ("Tartaria de los Moscovitas"). It also charts the route from the Philippines to Northern California.
Memorial to Don Manuel de Roda y Arrieta,1768 Apr. 19, MS Vault 69, California Historical Society. 
This map forms a part of the California Historical Society's stunning Templeton Crocker Collection of rare books and manuscripts.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Type Tuesday - American Type Founders Company's business stationery

American Type Founders Company's Portfolio of Business Stationery offered a strong argument for discriminating selection of letterhead and stationery in business correspondence. 

As stated in their address to printers: There must be an eye-arresting suggestion - a high spot - about a sales letter to save it from the every ready waste-basket. And that high spot is first - and always - in the letterhead design and stock. It cannot be otherwise. The instant you open a letter it conveys an optical impression. Not what is written - not the presentation, price or argument of the body text (you haven't got to that yet) - but the letterhead itself and the stock on which it is printed. 

A compelling argument indeed! And who could resist their selection of attractive, novel stationery?

"An effective letter deserves an effective clean-cut setting."

"Everyone is susceptible to the magic of good stationery."

"Old world atmosphere is often a desirable quality in stationery."

"Modern effects in typography add life to your stationery."

Jaime Henderson,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Manuscript Monday—Gold Rush correspondence, Part 5: "I some time feel like death being so long from my family and home"

When reading Gold Rush correspondence (and nineteenth-century correspondence in general), I am often struck by the tenderness with which men, battered by hard lives, expressed their most intimate emotions and affections. (Similarly, an easy, unselfconscious physical affection between men is often seen in nineteenth-century portrait photography.) The letter below, written by Thurstin Baxter to his wife and children, is a moving example of this epistolary openheartedness. Scrawled on a pictorial lettersheet, fragile, stained, and folded, the manuscript is a beautiful object in its own right.

Thurstin Baxter letter: El Dorado County, Calif., to his wife and children, 1852 April 11, Vault MS 165, California Historical Society
Clint Thorners and Pool are expecting to start in May but when I shall come home I know not but if we should have the good luck to dispose of our property here to advantage California will not keep us many weeks longer, if otherwise then we shall have to stay longer. I some time feel like death being so long from my family and home and think I will start forthwith to see them, then again I look at my purse and see that that's not big enough to pay up all my debt and so conclude to stay a little longer. It seems to me that if I should come home and still be in debt that I should want to come back again and if I should I should want you and the children to come too and that perhaps would not be for the best, so I shall do the best I can and come home as soon as I can. I hope that you will not lack for anything of the necessary comforts of life, so I close by saying that I am and still shall be while life remains, your affectionate husband.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian