Ornate 1800s metal type ID

I just picked up a lot of various type, in the lot are 2 fonts of ornate 1800s metal type. From what I can tell the pin mark indicates Johnson and Co. Philadelphia. Size is about 31-32 points (definitely before the standardization).

A quick search of the Circuitous Root website puts the pin mark in use in the 1840s to 1860s.

Can anyone shed light on this type? Perhaps a name or specimen?

Pics are included at the links below.


Thanks for anyone who knows anything about this foundry or type!


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Your type is Filigree. It was designed by Herman Ihlenburg and patented in 1878. You actually have the Filigree initials that are designed to be used with a similar looking version of Filigree that were sold with the initials in a slightly smaller height. While it has a Johnson pin mark, it was actually cast by MacKellar, Smiths, and Jordon of Philadelphia. Lawrence Johnson of the Johnson Type Foundry died in 1860, but the pin mark continued to be used for many years. Since the type is pre-American Point System, it must date between 1877 and 1886, the latter date being when MacKellar adopted the American standard point system. I have the same type, roughly 33 point, which would have been named in the catalog as Two Line Great Primer Filigree.

An interesting side note to explain the dates above: I have a catalog dated 1876 or 1877 from the Franklin Type Foundry of Cincinnati (at one time a branch of the Johnson/MacKellar foundry, and still closely connected to MacKellar in1876) that shows Filigree in the book’s final section, named the “Third Supplement,” and dated November 1877 (first Supplement is dated January 1877 and the Second Supplement is dated June, 1877). So, this shows that Filigree was being sold before it received its patent.

Nice find!



Thanks so much (and so quickly)! I didn’t imagine we’d know this much about a typeface that is so old. It’s interesting that they kept using an old pin mark and name for at least 17 years after Johnson passed. I doubt we’d see anything like that these days.

Upon more searching I found a portion of a specimen online:


It shows the other (smaller) capitals and some ornaments. I’m pretty sure that I saw those smaller capitals as well as some of the ornaments mixed up in the boxes I picked up. This is going to be a very fun hunt, perhaps out the set back together. Glad to have reached out!



If you have the full font of Filigree, you really have a treasure. Here is a showing of Filigree in the 1895 MacKellar specimen book (actually the Philadelphia branch of ATF by that time). It isn’t the best reproduction, but it does show most, if not all, of the decorative elements, so you can compare what you have with it.


By the way, Skyline Type foundry is currently offering new 24-point Filigree Initials.


Thank you so much Bob Mullen,
My wife loved the look of that typeface and I was looking to see if anyone had it available.
Yet more type for me to purchase.

i used my Filagree a few years back along with some other Victorian faces in this card, and no deep impression with this stuff:


Mike G.
Bob Mullen’s information is correct. My only addition would be that the small caps, to be used with the larger, more ornate caps, are actually 1/2 the size (and not the same design), and the thin ornaments, to be used at the top & bottom of the smaller caps are 1/2 that of the small caps. The small caps were designed to be centered on the large caps, with the thin ornaments at the top & bottom. I have a complete font, including all ornaments. Here is a photo that I took of one letter ‘A’ with a small cap and two thin ornaments:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/37305234585/in/dateposted/
I hope that you find all the pieces but, even if you don’t, those that you have found make nice initial letters.
Dave Greer


Thanks so much for posting! Your picture and description are very helpful. So far I’ve found 4 different point sizes of the type - 3 are pretty complete. The smallest is only a couple letters. I think it’s originally 2 matched sets of the small/large caps. I’ve also found some of the ornaments (not too many of the thin ones meant to go above and below the letters). Still working on seeing how much more I can find. I’ll eventually post pictures and a print when I get the presses back running - just moved.

Where did you get a high resolution version of the specimen? The link that Bob Mullen posted seems to be pretty low resolution.


Bob Mullen and Dave Greer have covered all the facts. I’d only like to comment on the statement “It’s interesting that they kept using an old pin mark and name for at least 17 years after Johnson passed. I doubt we’d see anything like that these days.”

This was not an accident or due to carelessness on the part of MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan. The owners kept the name of Lawrence Johnson attached to the foundry out of respect and affection for the previous owner. It is true, though, that we wouldn’t likely see anything like that these days.


As to your question, “Where did you get a high resolution version of the specimen? The link that Bob Mullen posted seems to be pretty low resolution.”

The specifics of the camera, that I used, is on the Flickr page that I referenced. I can only assume that Bob’s photo was of another photo, whereas mine was from my camera. I don’t know much about photography, but some people use a camera of lesser resolution, in order to upload directly to Briar. Others may know the reason.

Dave Greer