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, Letter Library, 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

Other resources

Talks About Type Specimens

Mad, Bad (and Good to Know) with Paul Shaw

This talk took place on February 13, 2023 as part of Type@Cooper’s Lubalin Lecture Series. The video archive of this event is made possible with the generous support of TypeCulture. Type specimens are an important resource for both the study of the history of type and the study of type design. Prior to the 21st century they were not widely accessible as with a few exceptions, they were widely scattered among various public, private and university libraries, printing museums, and individual collections. Many specimens exist in only a few copies, even many that were printed in editions consisting of tens of thousands of copies. Multiple copies of specimens often differ in collation and many are incomplete or mutilated. Despite the spate of type specimen facsimiles published in the 1960s and 1970s, the study of type specimens was difficult. All of this has changed dramatically in the digital era as not only have specimens been digitized, but a rapidly increasing number have been posted online. The great majority of these are freely accessible and many are also downloadable. Thus, type designers, type historians, and other researchers can now easily examine specimens in far away locations; compare multiple copies; and trace type designs from foundry to foundry and country to country. This talk will outline the different kinds of type specimens that have emerged over five centuries, summarize their features and contents, and then survey the type specimens that have been digitized and uploaded to the Internet. The survey will include assessments of the quality and utility of the various digitizing efforts and display approaches. Paul Shaw is a letter designer and graphic design historian. He is the sole proprietor of Paul Shaw / Letter Design, a studio specializing for thirty years in calligraphy, lettering and typography. Among his clients have been Clairol, Origins, Lord & Taylor, Campbell’s Soup, Cinzano, Vignelli Associates, and Pentagram. Paul was formerly a partner in LetterPerfect, a digital type foundry based in Seattle. Since 1980 he has taught calligraphy, lettering, typography and graphic design history at a variety of New York area design schools. Currently he is at both Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. He writes on letter-related subjects for Print, Eye, Baseline, Letter Arts Review, and AIGA's Voice. His book Helvetica and the New York City Subway sold out in two months, with a trade edition planned to be published by MIT Press. In 2002 Paul was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Finally, Paul is the reigning authority on W.A. Dwiggins, having spent 30 years researching his life and work.

Mad, Bad (and Good to Know) with Paul Shaw

Other Lists of Online Specimens

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

by Foundry

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Wood Type Only

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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
Specimen Book and Price List of the Great Western Type Foundry
Barnhart Bros. & Spindler
1873
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

ca.

1915
Bauer Types in Use
Fonderie générale de caractères français et étrangers / Beaudoire et Cie
BeaudoireGénérale
1909
Épreuves de nouveaux caractères…
Beaulieu-FournierFournier

ca.

1802
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
Catalogue spécimen des lettres en bois
Specimen of Printing Types…
Binny & Ronaldson
1812
Oratio Dominica in CLV linguas versa…
Manuale Tipographico, Vol. 1
Manuale Tipographico, Vol. 2
Condensed specimen book…
Boston

ca.

1867
Original Faces Cast…
Zvi Bregman Wood Type / אותיות עץ
Bregman

ca.

1940
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
Catalog
Chicago/Castcraft

ca.

1950
Type Specimens by Neon Type Division…
Chicago/Castcraft
1962
The Cincinnati Type Foundry Co’s Specimen and Price-List
Cincinnati
1870
Fifteenth Book of Specimens
Cincinnati
1882
Seventeenth Book of Specimens
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
Types of the De Vinne Press
De Vinne
1907
Les Caractères d’affiches
Deberny & Cie
1906
Le livret typographique; spécimen de caractères
Deberny & Cie
1920
Spécimen des caractères en bois…
Deberny & Peignot

ca.

1930
Typographie
Deberny & Peignot

ca.

1960
Proben von Buchdruck-Lettern
Les Caracteres les Vignettes…
Delacolonge
1773
Recueil des divers caractères…
Delemer
1821
DeLittle’s Wood Type Specimens
DeLittle

ca.

1960
Schriftproben der Reichsdruckerei
Deutsche Reichsdruckerei
1922
The General Specimen Book…
Dickinson
1856
Specimen of plain and fancy printing types
Recueil des divers caractères…
Dumont
1826
Épreuves de Caractères
E. Tarbé
1839
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
Convenient Book of Specimens
Franklin
1889
Specimen of Printing Types
Album d’Alphabets…
FTF

ca.

1925
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
Specimen Book of Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Arabic & Greek
Hebrew Monotype Press
1927
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
Latest and standard faces in type…
John Ryan
1894
Specimen des Nouveaux Caractères
Spécimen de la nouvelle fonderie…
Jules Didot
1842
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
Linotype Specimen Faces
Linotype
1905
Linotype Specimen Faces
Linotype
1907
Newspaper Heads
Linotype
1919
The Manual of Linotype Typography
Linotype Decorative Material
Linotype
1929
Specimen Book of Linotype Faces
Specimen of printing types and ornaments
Lovell & Gibson
1846
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
Neue Schriften und Ornamente / Lyrisch
T. J. Lyons’ Typograph
T. J. Lyons Antique Type Collection, Vol. 1
Wood Type Collection of T. J. Lyons
LyonsWells & WebbHamiltonPageTubbs
1984
Eleventh Book of Specimens [2nd Issue]
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1878
Shniedewend & Lee Co’s Specimen Book
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1888
Compact Book of Specimens [20th]
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan

ca.

1891
Price list of printing type…
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1891
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
On Type Faces … Examples of the Use of Type for … Books … notes by Stanley Morison
Medici
1923
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
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
Line-O-Scribe Sign Machines, Catalog No. M-656
Morgan Sign Machine Co.

ca.

1963
Condensed Specimen Book of Wood Type
Morgans & Wilcox
1890
40 Aniversario
Nacional
1955
Fonderia di Caratteri / Saggio di Caratteri
Nebiolo
1890
Saggio di Caratteri
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
Spécimen des nouveaux caractères…
Pierre Didot
1819
Index sive specimen characterum…
Plantin
1567
[Specimen Characterum…]
Plantin

ca.

1585
Specimen da Fundição Typographica Portuense
Specimens
Rand & Avery
1865
Campionario Caratteri
Reggiani
1937
Messinglinien-Fabrik
Épreuves de caractèrs ...
Épreuves des Caractères…
Epreuve de caracteres
Rosart
1761
Epreuve des caractères
Rosart
1768
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
Spécimen / Caractères de Labeur et de Fantaisie…
Schelter & Giesecke
1910
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
Specimens of printing types…
State Gazette

ca.

1886
A Specimen of Printing Types
Stephenson
1796
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
Proben aus der Schriftgießerei
Schrift- und Polytypen-Proben
[untitled]
Fonderie en caractères…
Thorey & Virey
1843
The Latest Type Fashions
Toronto
1899
Specimens of Printing Borders and Ornaments, &c., &c., &c.
Tubbs Wood Type
Tubbs
1902
Petit Specimen des Caractères
TurlotThorey & VireyMarcellin-LegrandDumeil

ca.

1880
Semainier typographique 1889
Caractères Elzéviriens… / Spécimen des caractères anciens…
Turlot

ca.

1890
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…
Spécialité de Caractères
WarneryDigney
1875
Specimens of wood type…
Wells & Webb
1849
Type Specimen Book
Western Typesetting

ca.

1951

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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