Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Type foundry digitally preserves vintage stationer’s lettering styles

[Guest editor: Tamye Riggs]

The Sweet collection is composed of typefaces based on the engraver’s lettering styles that came into fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century. The collection is anchored by Sweet Sans, Mark van Bronkhorst’s interpretation of the engraver’s sans serif (kin to the drafting alphabets popularized in the early 1900s).

A type designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Van Bronkhorst had long been a fan of these historic faces, many of which had all but disappeared from use. A few cuts of the engraver’s sans style existed in digital form, including Sacker’s Gothic (Monotype Imaging) and Engraver’s Gothic (Bitstream), but these interpretations were somewhat limited in their scope.

Van Bronkhorst sought to study the original forms in depth. As a graphic designer, he had worked with an engraving house in the past, and was aware that stationers and engravers used “masterplates” as lettering patterns, tracing letterforms with a pantograph device to manually transfer the forms to what would become the printing plate. He began hunting for masterplates, but found that most had been destroyed as engraving shops converted to digital typography. The majority of these shops had abandoned the tedious masterplate-tracing process in favor of more expedient photographic processes where “pretty much any digital font would do,” Van Bronkhorst says. He decided it would be a good idea to preserve the masterplate lettering styles—some good, some bad, some ugly—as they seemed otherwise destined to disappear unless interpreted as digital fonts.

After doing some digging, Van Bronkhorst discovered a stash of antique masterplates. With Linnea Lundquist, he commenced work on the first typeface in the Sweet range—Sweet Upright Script—likely the first digital version of this vintage social engraving design.

Van Bronkhorst then turned his attention to the engraver’s sans. Sweet Sans hearkens back to the same or similar masterplates as Sacker’s Gothic. Upon close inspection, various masterplates of what would seem the same letterforms varied considerably. The process of interpreting the design was one of selecting various forms and characteristics while leaving others out. The engraver’s sans was typically a cap-to-small-cap combination, yet a lowercase model did exist. Van Bronkhorst decided that Sweet’s interpretation would be broad, including lowercase and small caps, and in weights from Hairline to Heavy, with true italics. The result is a nine-weight sans family that pays homage to the charm and dignity of its model.

Encouraged by the positive response to the first releases, Van Bronkhorst is expanding the Sweet Sans family with a slightly modernized version, and plans to continue to gradually introduce more vintage stationer’s lettering styles in digital form. His goal is to carefully build a collection that accurately represents the genre while offering type users a variety of styles to suit their needs.

The Sweet collection of fonts is available at http://mvbfonts.com.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Engraving Moments at TypeCon 2011 in New Orleans

TypeCon, North America's premier typography conference that, this year, will be in the storied French Quarter section of New Orleans, features some engraving moments.

TypeCon runs from July 5-10 at the Sonesta Hotel. The first part of the week is specialized typographic, letterpress, calligraphic and book arts workshops interspersed with evening libations, entertainment and education.

The main program begins Friday morning, July 8. At 8:40am, master lettering artist and engraver, Yvette Rutledge presents, Analog Dialog / Painting signs in New Orleans and at 10:30am, Mrs. Collins presents engraved treasures from The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Specimens shown are from The Collection's Williams Research Center. "...at 410 Chartres Street in January 1996. After an extensive restoration, the Williams Research Center (WRC) serves as The Collection's research facility. City architect Edgar Angelo Christy designed the 1915 Beaux Arts structure, which initially functioned as a a police station and municipal courthouse. Today the façade and the reading room—which occupies the former courtroom—are suggestive of the building's earlier design, although the remaining floor space has been reordered to operate as secure, climate-controlled storage. These will include selections from Het Groote, The Great Mirror of Folly, early sheet music, Mardi Gras invitations, and an exquisite steel line engraving of Longfellow.

Saturday, July 9 is the opening reception for:
Graver to Press,
Mystic Blue Signs
2212 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA

For more information, please call 504-525-4691.
The Center for the Lettering Arts in New Orleans is pleased to announce Graver to Press — an exhibition of hand engraved printing in collaboration with Nancy Sharon Collins, Stationer.

The show includes intaglio pieces selected from Mrs. Collins’ commissioned design work and specimens on loan from her collection of historic prints, plates, dies and ephemera, along with metal — and wood — engraved printing, type, and tools from the engravers at Mystic Blue Signs.

Map: "Carte générale du territoire d'Orléans comprenant aussi la Floride Occidentale et une portion du territoire du Mississipi. Dressée d'après les observations les plus récentes par Bmi. Lafon."
Created by: Lafon, Barthélémy, 1769-1820.
Published: Nouvelle Orléans, 1806.
Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Touch Me, Feel Me. Wow, its Engraved!

Engraving—Letterpress' Shy SisterLecture with copious quantities of impressive visuals!
By Nancy Sharon Collins

Thursday, June 16
Type Directors Club
347 W 36th St # 603
New York, NY 10018-7243
(212) 633-8943

Commercial engraving for print has an illustrious history as a vital technique for graphic design and typography. Engraving is a fluid, free-hand expression restricted only by the perimeter of the surface upon which an engraving is worked. The exquisite beauty and gracefulness of arcs and shading inherent in the engraved line is unparalleled. For centuries prior to the digital age, engraving was the dominant methodology for teaching and innovation in lettering, and especially for calligraphy.

Nancy will explain why the organic nature of steel die and copper plate engraved imagery and text complements and enhances our visual experiences, and will demonstrate the importance of engraving as a modern graphic design technique. She will show examples from several avid collectors of elegant and unique engraved imagery, and share her expertise on engraving techniques and methodology. She will also describe the recent installation of a working engraving proofing press and the establishment of a new and growing engraving community in the great American city beneath the sea (New Orleans).

To read more about the speaker, Mrs. Collins was just quoted in Neenah paper's blog.

The TDC Events and Salons are held at the Type Directors Club Center, 347 West 36th Street, Suite 603, New York, NY 10018, unless otherwise noted. Click here for directions. Seating is limited so please click on an event you'd like to attend and use the link to pre-register. Type Salon admission is free for members and $20 for non-member professionals and $15 for non-member students. Admission fees vary for special events.

Image: Trade card, engraved with the anaglyptographic method, on coated stock.
© Richard D. Sheaff , http://www.sheaff-ephemera.com/
Anaglyptography was a peculiar way to engrave the appearance of 3-dimensional medallions and designs. It utilized a special pantograph engineered to copy the surface of bas-reliefs like the face of a coin. Much as a topographic map follows the contours of land, anaglyptography replicates the gentle differences in surface levels of a dimensional sculpture.


Here are a few more images for the June 16th TDC presentation:

Details will be posted shortly on the Type Directors Club "Salon" page...

"Allied Oil" courtesy of Strathmore archives, Mohawk Fine Paper, Cohoes, NY; Monogram © Richard Sheaff; "D" monogram engraved by Emily DeLorge.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Resources for Engraving

This list includes some resources and information about American commercial engraving and engraving for social stationary, it is by no ways complete. However, it is the beginnings of a more robust reference for intaglio engraving, and commercial engraving for stationery relevant to today: Some universities still have intaglio areas in their print making department for fine art etching and printing, one of these are great places to start.

There is a fully restored engraving proofing press in the graphic design department "dirty room" at Loyola University New Orleans. Small plates and dies, prepared commercially can be printed on it. Here are links to the entire, several year journey of the engraving proofing press:

(Sample of the 1/2" thick steel dies for which the press was designed.)

Photo-engraved* (etched) copper plates, art must be in vector, saved as Illustrator CS3 or earlier, or EPS:

Beaver Creek Engraving
P. O. Box 766
660 Creekside Drive
Dobson, NC 27017

Intaglio (copper) plate, ready to draw-on, comes with etching needle (to draw with—you have to draw flopped, as in backwards or mirror image). He etches, pulls a print, and ships it back to you (as in “print and ship”:

PO Box 86583
Portland OR 97286

Commercial engraver, (primarily a pressman—the guy who can take your commercially genegrated intaglio plate or die and print it) can provide plates from your vector art, as well as paper and the actual die stamping**:

Hart Engraving
4928 North 29th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53209-5407

International Engraved Graphics Association website includes their directory of commercial and stationery engravers:


A brand new online engraving community underwritten by Crane & Co. and Neenah Paper:

The Beauty of Engraving


Another full service engraving shop, independently owned by a lovely married couple (she's the engraver and he's the pressman):

First Impressions

900 East Jefferson Street
La Grange, KY 40031
(502) 265-9821

Pneumatic engraving system, developed for engraved jewelry, guns and fine knives, GSR is working with University of Kansas at Emporia on intaglio engraving for print:

GRS Tools
900 Overlander Rd.
P.O. Box 1153
Emporia, KS 66801
1-800-835-3519 or 620-343-1084

The first [program] “in the world” to offer a BFA in engraving arts.



James Ehlers
The Don & Mary Glaser Distinguished Professor of Engraving Arts
Emporia State University

Trade school for engraving the old fashioned way (James Ehlers, above, calls this “push engraving”) with graver or burin, though their instruction is for jewelry (which is right-reading. Remember, for intaglio printing you would have to learn to do this backwards.) This is one of the oldest continuously running trade schools in the country.


Master engraver (jewelry and fire arms, though doing only jewelry these days), Sam offers private lessons and instruction on the GRS machine as well. (Sam spent 3 years of his own time perfecting replicating engraved scroll work through vector art in Illustrator, check-out his website for this, great resources, too, though not for print) :


Sam demonstrates engraving script:


Extreme close-up of engraving scroll work:


Fine shading and cross-hatching:


Master engraver (the old fashioned way for jewelry, primarily, but also collaborating with intaglio print makers). Proprietor Yvette Rutledge is also a master lettering artist, tell her I referred you. Through the Center for the Lettering Arts, Eve is trying to get together a class for print and metal engravers:

Mystic Blue Signs
2212 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Beginning engraver, learning from her Dad, master gun smith Ed DeLorge:

J. Emily DeLorge

Louisiana Engravers Society, fledgling organization of south Louisiana regional engraving practitioners and enthusiasts:


The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver 1480-1650, print engraving exhibit with online components, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (engraving demos in Flash, I think, and also a video—access video button is in the upper right hand corner on the navigation bar.)


* Also spelled “photo engraving” and “photoengraving”.
** Commercial engraving presses are actually die stamping presses or machines.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inaugural Meeting of Louisiana Engravers Society (working name)

Last Thursday, January 6, in Jennifer Rice's Innisfree office at 729 East Boston Street in Covington, the inaugural meeting of the Louisiana Engravers Society met. This is a landmark event because engraving for print is almost a dead art. Nancy Sharon Collins of Covington and Yvette Rutledge of New Orleans have banded together to formalize the growing group of engraving enthusiasts whom they meet and who practice here in south Louisiana. Together, they have made it their mission to not only keep this venerable, exquisite art form alive but also encourage its growth by introducing it to younger generations. Highlights were meeting and networking, learning and sharing information and resources, especially sharing technical innovations. Sam Alfano demonstrated the work he has been doing creating digital translations of ornate engraved scroll designs, a process that took him three years to perfect (you can see some on his website.)

Engraving is the most beautiful form of printing known; think of Old Masters prints, those portraits and landscapes made-up of thousands of tiny lines, that's engraving. Albrecht Dürer was a master engraver, Raphael and Rubens allowed master engravers to copy their work thus increasing the market for their famous paintings. While etching has come to be the prevalent form of intaglio printing practiced in the fine art, printmaking world, engraving has fallen out of favor because it takes 6-10 years to become a master! (The difference between etching and engraving is that in etching, acid is used to make the “cut” while engravers literally cut into the surface of the metal to form designs. The similarity is that the printing process is then the same; ink is worked into the “cuts”. the excess wiped clean, and a print then pulled. Several etching artists are represented at the St. Tammany Art Association where their work can be seen). These days, engraving is best known on the currency carried in our wallets, all our postage stamps used to be engraved, and fancy social stationery and wedding invitations are still engraved. However, we have master engravers right here in our community and several students locally who want to learn.

Participants included Yvette Rutledge and Vince Mitchell, co-directors of the New Orleans Center for Lettering Arts and Mystic Blue Signs (Rutledge is herself a master letter and engraver), Nancy Sharon Collins, bespoke hand engraved social stationer (who also teaches graphic design at Southeastern Louisiana University), the Alfonos (Sam is a master gun and jewelry engraver), Cordelle Louvier, master printer, Emily DeLorge (graphic designer and engraving apprentice) and Skye Jenkins and Alex Babbit (enthusiastic students wanting to learn.) Noel Martin, local master stationery engraver, was unable to attend at the last minute but was present in spirit. Alfono offers engraving classes for jewelry engraving and Rutledge will be offering an engraving class for print, jewelry and metal work this coming fall.


photo: Kyle Petrozza http://www.kylepetrozza.com/