Specimen Books of Metal & Wood Type

Specimen Books of Metal & Wood Type

A directory of type foundry catalogs available online.

Type specimens are time capsules of typographic history. There is no substitute for seeing them in person, but you can now use a web browser to track the evolution of type design through the pages of over three hundred manufacturer catalogs from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. For years, I accessed these books via an unwieldy pile of bookmarks, downloads, and repetitive searches. As far as I know, there is no central register of digitized type specimens. This database attempts to fill that gap.

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Until recently, books like these were accessible only in rare book rooms and private collections, but we can thank a variety of individual collectors, universities, libraries, museums, and other institutions for making their copies available for digitization and online viewing. Many are hosted at the Internet Archive, which provides reasonably good captures for web browsing or download. I often turn to these sources for research, writing, and consulting, and also for identifying and cataloging type at Fonts In Use.

The collection below began with a PDF compiled by Hans Reichardt of the Klingspor-Museum and expanded from there, drawing from my own research and from lists at Open Library, Typography.Guru, Jacques André’s Bibliothèque virtuelle de typographie, and Circuitous Root (whose founder, David M. MacMillan, contributed many of the specimen books available on the Internet Archive).

Although it will evolve as more books are found or published online, this list does not seek to be perfectly comprehensive. Nor does it include foundry ephemera, such as individual typeface specimens and promotions (you can find many of these by browsing typeface pages on Fonts In Use). The goal is to facilitate research by gathering in one place the major catalogs that show a range of a manufacturer’s offerings.

This first view of the database is a simple list arranged by foundry name and then chronological order (or a best guess if there is no official publication date). But there is much more metadata under the hood, and future editions of this page will offer sorting by other categories, such as year, or browsing by cover or title page.

Of course, no matter how hi-fi the digital capture, there is no substitute for thumbing through physical specimen books at actual size. Many libraries, research centers, and universities have typographic collections the public can visit, and they offer lots of titles that aren’t available online. Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Butler Library, Kemble Collection, Letterform Archive, Lubalin Center, New York Public Library, Plantin-Moretus Museum, San Francisco Public Library, Silver Buckle Press Collection, St Bride Library, and Wing Collection at the Newberry Library — to name just a few — are valuable resources that deserve our support. Go out into your community and do some digging. What you find may surprise you.  — Stephen Coles

Updates

@June 11, 2022Enabled alternate views! Now you can see books sorted by year published, by country, by digital host, or by date added to the database (which means we won’t need to include individual catalog additions to these release notes anymore — though you can join as a Patron if you want updates emailed to you every few months).

You can also narrow the list to books that feature wood type. Other sorts and filters will be added soon.

There is also a new beta view revealing all the properties in the database! This isn’t yet optimized for the public website, but you can peek at selected images, notes, page counts, tags, and other data.

@May 29, 2022 — Added 1958 Intertype and c.1951 Western Typesetting from Ohio State University (via HathiTrust).

@May 28, 2022 — Added 1856 Dickinson and c.1886 State Gazette from RIT.

@May 20, 2022 — Added 1898 Tsukiji (Thanks, Paul Shaw!) Our first Japanese catalog is dedicated to borders and ornaments, with several from MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, including the Combination Chinese and Combination Japanese Border Series, Western pastiches of Asian decoration by journeyman punchcutter William W. Jackson.

@May 5, 2022 — Added c.1858 White, along with more info about this foundry that absorbed into Farmer.

@February 26, 2022 — Added five catalogs hosted by Art. Lebedev’s Bibliotekus, including three Cyrillic catalogs, 1912 Schelter & Giesecke, and a 1894 edition of Petzendorfer’s Schriften Atlas.

@February 14, 2022 — Added 1909 Générale/Beaudoire. (Thanks, Carine Vadet-Perrot!)

@February 5, 2022 — Added 1773 Enschedé. (Thanks, Matthijs Sluiter!)

@January 31, 2022 — Added Deberny & Peignot wood type specimen. (Thanks, Ampersand Press Lab!)

@January 7, 2022  —  Added 15 catalogs of wood type from Zvi Bregman, Hamilton, Line-O-Scribe, Morgans & Wilcox, Morgan Sign Machine, Wm. H. Page, and Showcard Machine. (Thanks to David Shields, who added these himself! If you would like to have editing permissions so you can contribute directly to the database, please get in touch.)

@December 31, 2021 — Added 5 catalogs from the State Library of Berlin, which is in the midst of a major type specimen digitization program along with the Deutsches Technikmuseum. (Thank you, Dan Reynolds!)

@November 9, 2021 — Added 2 catalogs from Plantin, 1567 and c.1585, now the earliest in the database. (Thank you, Matthijs Sluiter!)

@October 17, 2021 — Added UTMMC’s Universal Type Caster faces, c.1914

@October 17, 2021 — Added 4 catalogs from the Cary Collection at RIT. More from RIT to come.

@October 16, 2021 — Added 6 catalogs (all incomplete digitizations, but hi-fi) from Letterform Archive.

Planned updates

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Catalogs

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Specimens of Wood Type…
Pacific Coast Blue Book
Specimens of Printing Types (New York)
Specimens of Type… (Chicago)
Wood Type: Toronto Type Foundry
Desk Book: Specimens of Type…
Desk Book of Type and Printing Materials
Desk Book of Type Specimens…
Copper alloy type book…
Desk book of type specimens…
Specimen Book of American Line Type Faces
Specimens of Borders and Ornaments…
American Line Type Book
Supplement to the American Line Type Book…
Supplement No. 2 / American Line Type Book…
American Specimen Book of Type Styles
Supplementary Catalogue … Since … 1912
Specimen Book & Catalogue
Book of American Types: ATF Standard Faces
A supplement to the Book of American Types
ATF Foundry Type Descriptive Price List
Descriptive Index: ATF Foundry Type
Type Faces: Descriptive Index and Price List…
ATF Typographic Accessories, Specimen Catalog and Price List
ATF Typographic Accessories, Specimen Catalog and Price List
Handy Type Index and Price List
ATF Typographic Accessories, Specimen Catalog and Price List
Handy Type Index (1966)
Handy Type Index (1969)
Handy Type Index (1976)
The Specimen Book of Types Cast at the Austin Foundry
Austin
1838
Specimens of Printing Types &c Cast by Austin Wood & Co.
Austin Wood
1874
A Catalogue of Type…
Baltotype
1929
One Line Specimens and Revised Price List No. 8-A
Baltotype
1938
One Line Specimens and Revised Price List No. 10-A
Baltotype
1946
Type and Rule by Baltotype, Catalogue
Baltotype
1959
Pony Specimen Book and Price List
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1893
Pony Specimen Book and Price List
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
ca.
1893
Souvenir
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1899
Specimen Book of Type
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
ca.
1900
Barnharts Big Blue Book…
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1901
Gothics
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1901
Book of Type Specimens … (No. 9**)
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1907
Book of Type Specimens … (No. 9)
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1907
Preferred Type Faces (Book No. 10)
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
ca.
1913
Type Faces… (Catalog 25)
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1925
Fonderie Typographique de Battenberg…
Battenberg
1867
Hauptprobe in gedrängter Form…
Bauer
1915
Bauer Types in Use
Fonderie générale de caractères français et étrangers / Beaudoire et Cie
BeaudoireGénérale
1909
Spécimen de caractères
Spécimen des caractères de la maison Berthier & Cie
Specimen de caractères: petit carnet
Berthier
1882
Spécimens de travaux typographiques en noir et en couleurs. Fascicule n°1
Spécimen de caractères
Spécimen : fonderie en caractères
Spécimens : travaux typographiques en noir et en couleurs. Neuvième [9th] fascicule
Spécimen de caractères : petit carnet / fonderie S. Berthier & Durey
Spécimen de caractères / Fonderie S. Berthier & Durey
Spécimen de la fonderie Ad. Bertrand
Specimen of Printing Types…
Binny & Ronaldson
1812
Zvi Bregman Wood Type / אותיות עץ
Bregman
ca.
1940
Oratio Dominica in CLV linguas versa…
Manuale Tipographico, Vol. 1
Manuale Tipographico, Vol. 2
Condensed specimen book…
Boston
1860
Original Faces Cast…
Proben der Schriften
Breitkopf
1787
A Specimen of Printing Types, and Ornaments…
Specimens of Printing Types…
Bruce
1848
An Abridged Specimen… [1869] + 1st and 2nd Supplements [1870]
Specimens of Printing Types
Our Handy Book of Types…
Spécimen des Caractères…
Bruxelles
1914
A Specimen of Printing Types
Caslon
1785
A Specimen of Cast Ornaments
Caslon
1795
Specimen of Printing Types
Caslon
1798
Specimen of Printing Types
Specimen of Printing Types
Specimen of Printing Types…
Specimens of Printing Types…
Specimens of Wood Letter…
Caslon
ca.
1905
Specimens of types…
Caslon
1915
Specimens of Types…
Caslon
1922
The Cincinnati Type Foundry Co’s Specimen and Price-List
Cincinnati
1870
Fifteenth Book of Specimens
Cincinnati
1882
Seventeenth Book of Specimens
Catalog
Chicago/Castcraft
ca.
1950
Type Specimens by Neon Type Division…
Chicago/Castcraft
1962
Catalogue and Price List … H. H. Thorp Mfg. Co., Cleveland TF
Catalogue and Price List of Type and Material
Cleveland
1893
Catalogue and Book of Specimens of Type Faces…
Cleveland
1895
The Proof-Sheet
Collins & M’Leester
1867
Typographic Messenger, Vol. 4–5
Conner
1869
Supplementary Specimens … Jas. Conner’s Sons
Specimens of Type…
Specimen Book: Types and Borders, Ornaments…
Damon & Peets
1903
Wood Type
Day & Collins
1897
Spécimen des caractères en bois…
Deberny & Peignot
ca.
1930
Proben von Buchdruck-Lettern
Les Caractères d’affiches
Deberny & Cie
1906
Le livret typographique; spécimen de caractères
Deberny & Cie
1920
Les Caracteres les Vignettes…
Delacolonge
1773
Recueil des divers caractères…
Delemer
1821
DeLittle’s Wood Type Specimens
DeLittle
ca.
1960
Types of the De Vinne Press
De Vinne
1907
The General Specimen Book…
Dickinson
1856
Specimen des Nouveaux Caractères
Spécimen de la nouvelle fonderie…
Jules Didot
1842
Spécimen des nouveaux caractères…
Pierre Didot
1819
Schriftproben der Reichsdruckerei
Deutsche Reichsdruckerei
1922
Recueil des divers caractères…
Dumont
1826
Epreuve de caractères
Enschedé
1748
Proef van letteren
Enschedé
1768
Vermeerdering van meest nieuw gesnedene letteren…, Vol. 1
Enschedé
1773
Proeve van letteren
Enschedé
1825
Proeve van letteren
Enschedé
1830
Spécimen de caractères typographiques anciens…
Enschedé
1867
Die Hochdeutschen Schriften…
Enschedé
1919
Selections from the specimen book of the Fann St. Foundry
Fann Street
1874
Supplement No. 3, Late Specimens of Printing Types
Specimen Book
FarmerWhite
1867
The Later Specimens…
Farmer
1878
The Specimen Book of Types
Specimens of Printing Types
Farmer
1887
Selected Type Faces
Farmer
1889
Specimens
Farmer
1893
Abridged Specimen Book…
Typographic Specimens
Specimen of Printing Types
Specimen of Plain & Ornamental Types
Figgins
ca.
1858
Образцы шрифтов
Manuel Typographique, Vol. 2
Album d’Alphabets…
Convenient Book of Specimens
Franklin
1889
Specimen of Printing Types
Edición IV Manual
Muestario
Épreuves de caractères… (Aphe René & Cie)
Recueil des divers caractères
Presses, Tools and Printing Materials Catalogue
Golding
1881
Grinnell’s Hand Book on Painting
Grinnell
1894
Spécimen des Caractères D’Affiches… (Vol. 2)
Gromort
1837
Schriftgiesserei Wilhelm Gronau
Type Book / Book of Type Faces…
Muster-Sammlung
Schriftgiesserei … / Neue Polytypen der…
Haenel
ca.
1840
Specimens of Holly Wood Type
Hamilton
1882
Hamilton’s Wood Type [Catalog No. 12]
Hamilton’s Wood Type, Catalog No. 14
Caractères en bois
HamiltonCaslon
1900
Hamilton’s Wood Type, Catalog No. 15
Hamilton
1901
Hamilton’s Wood Type / New Gothic Faces
Hamilton’s Wood Type: New Gothic Faces in Wood Type
Gothics and Wood Border
Catalog 38
Add “Punch” to Your Printing… (Catalog No. 25)
Woodtype: Selective Emphasis for Fine Typography
Specimen Book
Hansen
1901
Specimen Book of Type…
A Book of Types…
New & Abridged Specimens of Wood-Letter…
Harrild & Sons
ca.
1890
Selected Specimens of Modern Printing Types
Harrild & Sons
1906
New Specimen Book…
Hawks & Shattuck
1889
Schriften Atlas by Ludwig Petzendorfer
Hoffmann
1889
Schriften Atlas by Ludwig Petzendorfer [2nd edition]
Hoffmann
1894
Schriften Atlas by Ludwig Petzendorfer [2nd edition, unbound]
Schriften Atlas by Ludwig Petzendorfer
Hoffmann
1898
Schriftenatlas Neue Folge by Ludwig Petzendorfer
Hoffmann
ca.
1903
Specimen Book and Catalog (Feb. 1897)
Specimen Book and Catalog (May 1902)
Inland
1902
Specimen Book and Catalog (Jan. 1907)
Specimen Book and Catalog (Sep. 1907)
Inland
1907
Book of Intertype Faces
Intertype Faces: One-line Specimens
Nickel-Alloy Type / Abridged Specimen Book
Catalogue and Specimen Book
Eine Anzahl wertvoller Schriften…
Klingspor
ca.
1914
Gesamt-Probe
Klinkhardt
1883
Образцы… [Samples…]
Feuilles d'épreuves de caractères
Épreuves de caractères
Laboulaye
1853
Épreuves Générales des Caracteres…
Lamesle
1742
Muestra de los Caracteres…
Словолитни О. И. Леман [Words of the O. I. Leman]
Épreuves des caractères de la fonderie de Frères Levrault
Levrault
1800
Specimens of Printing Types
Specimen of Printing Types Made by the Lindsay TF
Lindsay
1890
Catalog of Type Faces and Supplies
Line-O-Scribe
ca.
1938
Newspaper Heads
Linotype
1919
The Manual of Linotype Typography
Specimen Book of Linotype Faces
Supplementary Specimen Pages (March 15, 1931)
Ludlow
1931
Supplementary Specimen Pages (Apr 1932)
Ludlow
1932
A Supplement (Nov 1933)
Ludlow
1933
A Supplement (Feb 1934)
Ludlow
1934
Recently Produced (Apr 1936)
Ludlow
1936
Ludlow Typefaces [Edition D, copy 1140]
Ludlow
ca.
1940
A Supplement to the Typeface Book
Ludlow
ca.
1943
Wood Type Collection of T. J. Lyons
LyonsWells & WebbHamiltonPageTubbs
1984
Eleventh Book of Specimens [2nd Issue]
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1885
Shniedewend & Lee Co’s Specimen Book
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1888
Price list of printing type…
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1891
Compact Book of Specimens [12th Issue]
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
ca.
1892
Samples of type-lithograph fonts (Образцы шрифтов типо-литографии)
Menert (Менерт)
ca.
1915
Specimen of printing types
Miller
1815
Printing Type Specimens…
Miller & Richard
1919
Specimen Book of Printing Types
Marder Luse & Co.
1881
Abridged specimen book of printing type
Marder Luse & Co.
1889
Printers’ Purchasing Guide…
Marder Luse & Co.
1890
Printers’ Purchasing Guide…
Marder Luse & Co.
1893
The Monotype Pony Specimen Book…
Monotype (Lanston)
1921
The Monotype Specimen Book of Type Faces
Monotype (Lanston)
1922
Specimens of Printing Types and Ornaments
Montreal
1850
Specimens of printing types plain & ornamental…
Wood 2
Morgan Press
1964
Condensed Specimen Book of Wood Type
Morgans & Wilcox
1890
Line-O-Scribe Sign Machines, Catalog No. M-656
Morgan Sign Machine Co.
ca.
1963
40 Aniversario
Nacional
1955
Campionario caratteri e fregi tipografici (Pt. 3)
Campionario Nebiolo
Nebiolo
1935
Garnituren Grotesk-Schriften
Proben-Sammlung von Messing-Typen
[German] Specimens of Wood Type
Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type Borders, Etc.
Specimens of Wood Type
Specimens of Wood Type
Specimens of New Process Wood Type!
Page’s Wood Type (Book No. 10)
New Specimen Book (2nd Compact Ed.)
Palmer & Rey
1884
Third Revised Specimen Book…
Palmer & Rey
1887
Fifth Revised Specimen Book…
Palmer & Rey
1892
Index sive specimen characterum…
Plantin
1567
[Specimen Characterum…]
Plantin
ca.
1585
Épreuves des Caractères…
Specimen da Fundição Typographica Portuense
Specimens
Rand & Avery
1865
Campionario Caratteri
Reggiani
1937
Messinglinien-Fabrik
Épreuves de caractèrs ...
Epreuve de caracteres
Rosart
1761
Epreuve des caractères
Rosart
1768
Latest and standard faces in type…
John Ryan
1894
Mustersammlung
Schelter & Giesecke
1886
Erste Folge der Muster-Sammlung
Schriften / Gedrängte Probe
Schelter & Giesecke
ca.
1900
Proben (Vol. 1)
Schelter & Giesecke
ca.
1900
Spécimen
Schelter & Giesecke
ca.
1903
Hauptprobe (Vol. 1)
Schelter & Giesecke
1912
Plakatschriften
Schelter & Giesecke
1928
Schriftprobe
Schelter & Giesecke
1940
untitled / Roman Scherer, Lucerne (Suisse)
Scherer
1920
S. A. Fabrique de caractères en bois (No. 24)
Wood Letter Specimens
Sellers
ca.
1930
Sign up with The Showcard Machine
Showcard Machine Co.
1984
Specimen Book of Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Arabic & Greek
Hebrew Monotype Press
1927
A Specimen of Printing Types
Stephenson
1796
Specimens of printing types…
State Gazette
ca.
1886
Printing Types
Stephenson Blake
1891
Specimens of Point Line Type
Stephenson Blake
1908
Specimens of Wood Letter…
Stephenson Blake
1915
Specimens of Point Type / Specimen Book of Type…
StevensFiggins
1923
Specimens of Type Faces…
Stevens ShanksStevens
1933
Épreuves de Caractères
E. Tarbé
1839
Proben aus der Schriftgießerei
Schrift- und Polytypen-Proben
[untitled]
Fonderie en caractères…
Thorey & Virey
1843
Specimens of Printing Borders and Ornaments, &c., &c., &c.
The Latest Type Fashions
Toronto
1899
Tubbs Wood Type
Tubbs
1902
Semainier typographique 1889
Caractères Elzéviriens… / Spécimen des caractères anciens…
Turlot
ca.
1890
Spécialité de Caractères
WarneryDigney
1875
Specimens of the Job Division Type, Gov’t Printing Office
US Government
1897
Universal Type Caster Faces
UTMMCATF
ca.
1914
Specimens of Vanderburgh, Wells & Co’s Wood Type…
Vanderburgh Wells & Co.
1872
Indice de Caratteri…
Specimens of wood type…
Wells & Webb
1849
Type Specimen Book
Western Typesetting
ca.
1951
Specimen Book of Printing Types…
Schriftproben
Woellmer
ca.
1896
Hauptprobe…
Woellmer
ca.
1910

Notes:

Years are often estimates. Type catalogs seldom included dates, and some bound together specimen pages printed over various years.

A few of the catalogs are published by printers or type distributors, not foundries. A future update will label these notable exceptions.

This database lists major catalogs showing a broad range of a foundry’s offerings. For specimens of individual typefaces, see Fonts In Use.

Header image: Letterform Archive

Additions and corrections are welcome through email or Twitter.

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