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Ralf Herrmann

Self-made phototypesetting fonts?

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Ralf Herrmann

So we recently took over a Staromat phototypesetting machine with well over 100 fonts. Interestingly, more than half of the fonts appear to be self-made. Several negatives per font put between two plastic strips, retouched with markers and all taped together. 

Was this done to save the money for the actual fonts and if so, was that a common thing do do back then? Or are there other possible reasons? Anything seen this before?




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George Thomas

The retouching is likely just opaque; that was a common occurrence on photo fonts, even text fonts from Alphatype had it. Two-inch fonts from franchises such as Alphabet Innovations had it and very likely even later ones from Visual Graphics also.

In the early days Alphabet Innovations fonts were made by hand, in sections, so were patched together with red tape (Paklon) and retouched with opaque because they didn't have proper equipment to make a film strip longer than 24 inches. In the early days of Visual Graphics they either didn't have proper equipment or wanted to build a library very quickly, so copied or sold Filmotype fonts with all the spacing guides opaqued out. Lots of opaque on those!

Your picture on the bottom does appear to be home-made, and may have been done for one of the following reasons:

1. Staromat didn't have the font available to sell, or
2. The user made it to match more exactly output from a text machine, or
3. Their time was worth nothing so they made it to save money.

Hope this information helps. If you need a way to extract those images, let me know.

  • very interesting! 1

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Ralf Herrmann

All very interesting. Thanks!

On 4/22/2018 at 9:09 PM, George Thomas said:

The retouching is likely just opaque;

Didn’t know that word before. But yes, that’s what it is. 

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