The ongoing task of Type Proofing

The Baffler once said, Interns Built The Pyramids. This couldn't be more true at Starshaped, where interns keep tabs on the type collection every week, with the menial tasks of sorting, setting and proofing in order to keep everything in top shape and ready to use. Every few months we take a moment to catalog new metal type in the form of a small type specimen book. This isn't exactly formal or complete, but it lets us know what we have in the collection, lest we forget (which can happen when you have 600+ fonts). Our metal type book has been growing from day one, and is updated as more type makes its way into the studio. We also take the opportunity to print full proofs of any unusual or 19th century faces that come our way and for which we have no digital versions. typebook1



Last year we started proofing the wood type collection in the same fashion, only on larger 12x18" sheets, and combining the typefaces with wood ornaments, rules and borders. Not only will this give us a better working knowledge of the type in the studio, but it also puts it in an easy-to-scan format to aid in making quick digital mockups of jobs. The wood type is a much more time consuming project, mostly because of the setup process. We've been trying to do all of the faces we have in a given size at a time, as this keeps the basic framework similar from one to the next. As of now, we have about 1/3 or so completed, or around 35 complete fonts proofed. This project, like with the metal type proofing, needs to happen when the presses aren't running actual jobs, so it is often put on hold for downtime, which can be hard to come by. Once we have them completed (a task that's never really finished, given that we're acquiring type all of the time), we can put together one nice set for the archive and reference another for instruction or daily use. Occasionally, other printers have asked to reference type we have in the studio for research purposes and this will come in handy for that.

Our lists of wood type, along with the best reference book:


One of the 8-line forms on press:


Just a few recent sheets:



The other great thing about this project is that it's a down and dirty lesson in every step of the printing process for the interns. The overall design and format of the pages have to match from one to another, the type needs to be set correctly, justified and line spaced accordingly, and then there's makeready on the press from the ground up. Oh, and did I mention printing? That's actually the easiest part.