Specimen of Printing Types,
BY WILLIAM CASLON,
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Two-Line Double Pica.
Two-Line Great Primer.
Two-Line Small Pica
Two-Line Long Primer.
Two-Line Double Pica.
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ABOUT THE COLLECTION
by Jan Tholenaar
With an introduction by Casper Cijzen
The type specimens from the end
of the lyth Century are really endearing;
their infinite variety is glorious.
Collector Jan Tholenaar has assembled one of the greatest private collections of
type specimens in the world. With his individual preferences setting the tone,
the collection focuses on specimens produced between 1830 and /930. The many
highlights ofthat century include extremely diverse fantasy letters and ornaments,
with examples of artistic printing. The tension mounts as Tholenaar displays some
of the wonderful examples and enthuses: "Such a wealth, such dazzling color com¬
binations. Such complex constructions; these took weeks of work. All those letters
and all those ornaments in all those different colors. That pale green and brown
and that light grey next to each other, there's no clash there. And look at the way
that fits, unbelievable! All of it letterpress, no lithography. It does sometimes lead
to abnormalities; just look at this piece of work, all set entirely in copper lines!
They were secured in plaster; nobody knows how to do that these days. Sometimes
there's a lovely signature, too, also constructed the same way!'
Tholenaar does, indeed, show magnificent examples of setting all made up
of letters, lines, or intricate ornaments. Applications were devised for all of this
material being offered for sale, set, and printed by hand. Tholenaar leafs further
through the book: "The type specimens from the end of the lytb Century are
really endearing; their infinite variety is glorious."
Tholenaar continually expresses his admiration for the love with which type
specimens were evidently composed during that era. He points out a specimen
in which a single letter is presented as an arful example of the designer's
typography, and another that features various printing procedures: letterpress,
engraving, and offset.
The only restriction Tholenaar imposes on his collecting is that the specimens
must be set in lead. He has examples from foundries and printers, but an adver¬
tisement in a magazine, for instance, can also be a specimen. He buys them from
antiquarian booksellers all around the world. Having long worked in the book
business, he is used to dragging around a heavy case of books. Naturally, he also
gets to see a lot of catalogs. He cites the example of the famous Jammes type cata¬
log: "No point in even thinking about it.. ..Just look at the prices. And they're
all like that. It was terrible, real torture, nothing but type specimens"
Some specimens he finds "amusing!' others simply "nice!'He doesn't have
much enthusiasm for all the sans serifs designed in the last century, with the
exception of Paul Renner's Futura. "But if you compare all those Victorian fantasy
letters with the postwar, perfect, but stiff Swiss typography, for example, then the
former have far more appeal!'
It's not so easy to collect type specimens these days; they've become
scarce and expensive. You have to buy virtually everything from an anti¬
quarian bookseller or at an auction. That burns a big hole in your pocket.
It would be impossible to start my collection of several thousand examples
all over again. If I go into a bookseller's (something I find hard to resist,
wherever I am in the world) and ask if they have any type specimens, often
the reply is,"No, and whenever I do get one, it goes quickly; they seem to
be real collectors' items nowadays."
I remember one of my first purchases, a Schelter & Giesecke Muster¬
sammlung from 1886.1 bought it at Kok in Oude Hoogstraat, Amsterdam.
My love for type was aroused while I was training at the Amsterdam
Graphic School in Dintelstraat from 1945 to 1947.1 was taught typesetting
by J. Aarden, known for his Linotype, or "new trend," courses (1920-28) and
"illustrative typography" (1928-34). In Möllenkamp's drawing class, we sat
endlessly fiddling with Hollandse Medieval; I will never forget, as long as
I live, that the capital A has a little flag on it. We had letters such as Nobel,
Romulus, Bodoni, Studio, Libra, and Iris. My favorites were Trajanus and
Gravure, with its long ascenders and descenders.
I really got a kick when I visited the library of the Amsterdam Type
Foundry (formerly the Nicolaas Tetterode Foundry in Rotterdam, then
located in Bilderdijkstraat, Amsterdam). It was there that I saw, for the
first time, a Derriey specimen from 1862, probably the most beautiful
ever made. It was years before I managed to get one of those.
On a visit to the St. Bride Printing Library in London, I made the
acquaintance of the Printers' International Specimen Exchange publica¬
tions. From 1880 onwards, 16 yearbooks were published in editions of
200 to 450 copies. English printers, in particular, submitted their most
magnificent work for these books, thus preserving it for posterity. The
books featured complex setting work (artistic printing), with many colors
and a vast array of both beautiful and ugly letters. It is Victorian printing,
in particular, of which I'm extremely fond; sometimes it is truly lovely,
and sometimes only beautiful in its ugliness. The Germans picked up the
idea of these yearbooks, and I feel privileged to have a number of both the
English and the German series in my library. A similar product of Dutch
manufacture is the Uitwisseling van kunstdrukwerk in Nederland, of which
I possess the first—and immediately last?—volume, from 1893. It contains
little more than 20 pages.
I used to have to travel a lot for my work (book co-productions). It was
Collecting Type Specimens