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Starting an online archive of type specimens

Ralf Herrmann

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I am certainly glad that this project is alive. I have deposited a number of my type specimens at the Pavillon-Presse in Weimar (where Ralf’s equipment is situated), and can donate time for scanning and photographing specimen pages, typing in metadata, etc. Here’s hoping for more posts! 

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Sitting on my desk for the past 25 years is: "Berthold Headlines E3". I'm very old school from the bygone days of metal type. My kids ask me why it says "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog" many times on every single page. Some things are just difficult to comprehend in this digital age. But if my house was burning down - I'd be running out with this book (and my Bible) under my arm. Printed by-the-way in München (Munich) and Berlin, which was in the West back then Ahahahhhhh. 

Get Erik - the man, to talk to some of the big type houses about sponsoring your project.

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Ralf Herrmann

Mostly due to time constraints, nothing has happened actively, but I still have it on my radar, exploring all the options to make it happen. Case in point: I am currently writing an application for a digitization grant that could potentially cover the costs of someone scanning type specimens at our printing museum for six months. 

A fundamental decision I still have to make is who will be behind the archive. Option 1 would be to start a new organization just for this project, but I don’t really consider that because of the administrative overhead. Option 2 would be to make it part of my network of typography websites—so technically my own business would be behind it. That would justify investing my own time and money into it (just like with Typography.Guru) and there could be some nice synergy effects of having it run as part of a network of typography sites. Option 3 would be to make it a project of our local printing museum, so a registered non-profit with a type specimen library would be behind it. That would also make sense and would make it much easier to apply for grants, but at the moment, we are just a tiny team of volunteers already doing a lot of unpaid work, and adding such a big project could be too much—even though it certainly also would be a great opportunity.  
It would interest me to hear what you guys think about these options—in terms of how it would influence the perception of the project, potential participation and so on. 

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Riccardo Sartori

I think the third option would be the best for legitimacy and growth (synergies with other printing museums come to mind).

As I mentioned, there could be ways to make it financially sustainable, but going full non profit would perhaps ease the need to chase potential markets and customers, focussing instead on the idea itself.

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Albert-Jan Pool

Option 1 sounds like a lot of time will be spend in order to fulfill legal requirements and organization before you can even start. Option 2 is of course interesting, but I think that you would not only have to invest your own time but also your own money. With Option 3 you would skip the first stage of Option 1, you would be left with investing your time, but I think that your own typography sites will benefit from this. In both cases many people will strongly connect your name with the things that you make happen. Next to others of course, but I think you’re known best for this. Makes me think of Stephen Coles a bit. He works for Letterform Archive but I think this has a spin-off on his book and it is likely that it will be of great advantage for eventual future projects. When it comes to fund raising the situation in the US is quite different from Germany, but Option 3 probably is the best starting point for that.

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