Full Case of Type?

What constitutes a full case of type? Is there a certain number of characters and then a specific number of each of those characters? More vowels than consonants????

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I am surprised the usual people have not answered this question. It is a very good one.

The usual font purchase of one face, a Job Font, say Garamond in one size, 14pt, in a California job case will not fill all the compartments for each letter. Most foundries have a standard formula for how many pieces for each letter. The lower case a, e, t and h are among the highest count per character. This size font is usually called a Job Font. For larger fonts you tell the Foundry you want a Book Font. My experience is that a small book font contains at least 5 job fonts. This will fill most of the letter compartments of a Cal Job case to the top.

The main difference being that 5 job fonts would give you more caps and more letters you don’t use such as parenthesis, brackets, etc than a book font. The book font would have a predetermined amount of each letter with more emphasis on lower case letters to set pages of text. A really big book font would fill a lower case with lower case letters and another case for the caps and weigh anywhere from 50, 75 or 100 pounds, depending on the font size.

I hope this gives you a better understanding. Maybe some of the foundry people will chime in and correct my assumptions.

Depending on what you plan to print, you choice of types should reflect that intent. When I had a business that catered to walk-in customers, I had a large assortment of types to fill every need (and still would have liked to have more). I had Copperplate and Bank Gothic for business types. Goudy Text and Typo Roman and Upright for invitations and churchy things. A large collection of Gothics, Dom Casual, Cartoon, Balloon, Stymie Bold, Franklin Gothic, (sixteen cabinets of wood and metal) for posters. Some antique faces for oldfashioned functions. Lots of quirky display faces just to liven up a card or letterhead. The only families of type I had for years were Century Oldstyle and ATF Garamond. I later found runs of Parsons and Packard (talk about quirky faces). But all of these were small holdings, one or two fonts at most. It was very hard to set more than a few lines in any one face.

As my interests changed toward books and broadsides, my type needs became simpler. I needed fewer faces, but larger fonts of them. I am envious of the printer who has only one type face in a full range of sizes, Roman and Italic - who is content.

When I started my own shop 25 years ago I bought type wherever and whenever I could find it. For the most part I made due with what I had, and as I described about, had type for any occasion. But I also ended up with a lot of type I never used, I always thought I would, but the opportunity didn’t arise. I even carried around 500 to 700 lbs of pied type in cigar boxes thinking I would someday sort it all out (and when I mean pied, I mean type that was dumped from standing forms so I had 10 or more faces mixed together in each box).

If I had the chance to do it over, I would choose one typeface, and build a family of that one. All sizes, Roman and Italic, small caps and titling. If I bought it in packages, I would buy it one cap font to four or five lowercase fonts. If I could afford it, I would have large founts cast with extra sorts of e, a, h, o, t and s characters. I would take great care in choosing the face. I would read a lot before I made the choice, I would look at as many examples of the faces as I could to see what other printers have done with the types. I would buy hard foundry rather than Monotype. I would start with a 50 lb font of a text size Roman (12 or 14pt) and a smaller amount of Italic, and buy small fonts of 18 and 24pt. This would give enough type for letterheads and business and greeting cards, as well as the ability to set some longer texts as necessary. I would buy some compatable piece border to add decoration. As I added types I would be very careful to buy types that were compatable with the first. I would read, read and read more about type, typography and design. I would start with a plan - the desire to print is noble, a plan makes it even better.



This is great advice. Thanks for weighing in on this. I’m fairly new to letterpress, and have been slowly embarking on the sort of plan you lay out here. As many of my fonts have been given to me, i’ve taken what I can get: but I wish often I could trade my cases of stymie for some spreads of Goudy Old Style & Kennerly italics (with enough Univers to round things out).

Dear OMP,

There is some 14pt Goudy Oldstyle in foundry available a NA Graphics. It comes up fairly often on eBay, altho the competition is getting fiercer. Kennerley is only available in Monotype, but that means you can buy off the shelf and build yourself a program for acquiring type. I would not mix the two. Goudy tended to design type with large x height and short decenders. It makes the type seem larger than it is. Kennerley is proportioned a little better and is considered one of his better types. Although I am a big fan of Goudy designs I would take a good hard look at some of the more classic faces. Two really good books to read are Stanley Morison’s “A Talley of Types” published by Cambridge University Press, and “Anatomy of a Typeface” by Alexander Lawson, published by Hamish Hamilton, London. Both books are readily available and will give you a lot to think about.

I personally would rather invest in foundry type, at this time being cast by Dale Guild in New Jersey and Stempl in Germany (very expensive). The are still a lot of Monotype casters in use, but it is always better to buy from one company because of small differences in alignment. Of course a lot depends on the depth of your pocketbook. What kind of printing do you intend to focus upon?


Thank you all for the very helpful information…

I’ll request these books today; thanks for your thoughts.

As you mention, the pocketbook is the biggest issue right now.

Long term, I’d like to hand-set a small novel or two in serial; have to finish the novels first, though. For now, I’ve printed cards & business cards & the like—nothing all that impressive. I recently acquired a few sans serif faces, and have enjoyed those.

The reason I mentioned Kennerly Italic specifically is because I have a nice spread of it now (12, 14, 18, 24); I suppose simply adding the Roman wouldn’t be a bad idea—but I have been in love with goudy os for a while.

I hadn’t really considered the monotype/foundry question; I’m attracted to monotype simply because it seems so readily available, but I do like the idea of supporting existing foundries so they’re still around for my grandkids.

Again; heading off now to request those books…but THANKS!