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 two 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

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

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

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

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

Planned updates

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Specimen Books by Foundry

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…
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
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
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
Specimen de caractères: petit carnet
Berthier
1882
Spécimen des caractères de la maison Berthier & Cie
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
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]
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 Wood Letter…
Caslon
1898
Specimens of Printing Types…
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
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
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
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
1960
Types of the De Vinne Press
De Vinne
1907
Specimen des Nouveaux Caractères
Spécimen de la nouvelle fonderie…
Jules Didot
1843
Spécimen des nouveaux caractères…
Pierre Didot
1819
Recueil des divers caractères…
Dumont
1826
Epreuve de caractères
Enschedé
1748
Proef van letteren
Enschedé
1768
Epreuve de caractères…
Enschedé
1768
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’s
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
1858
Specimens of Point Type / Specimen Book of Type…
FigginsStevens
1923
Manuel Typographique, Vol. 2
Album d’Alphabets…
Convenient Book of Specimens
Franklin
1889
Specimen of Printing Types
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
1840
Caractères en bois
HamiltonCaslon
1900
Catalog No 15
Hamilton
1901
Hamilton’s Wood Type / New Gothic Faces
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
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
Hoffmann
1894
Schriftenatlas Neue Folge by Ludwig Petzendorfer
Hoffmann
1905
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
Nickel-Alloy Type / Abridged Specimen Book
Catalogue and Specimen Book
Eine Anzahl wertvoller Schriften…
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…
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
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
1940
A Supplement to the Typeface Book
Ludlow
1943
Wood Type Collection of T. J. Lyons
LyonsWells & WebbHamiltonWilliam H. PageTubbs
1984
Eleventh Book of Specimens [2nd Issue]
MacKellar Smiths & Jordan
1878
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
1892
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
Wood 2
Morgan Press
1964
40 Aniversario
Nacional
1955
Campionario caratteri e fregi tipografici (Pt. 3)
Campionario Nebiolo
Nebiolo
1935
Garnituren Grotesk-Schriften
Proben-Sammlung von Messing-Typen
Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type Borders, Etc.
William H. Page
1874
Page’s Wood Type (Book No. 10)
William H. Page
1890
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
1585
Épreuves des Caractères…
Specimen da Fundição Typographica Portuense
Specimens
Rand & Avery
1865
Campionario Caratteri
Reggiani
1937
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
Proben (Vol. 1)
Spécimen
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
1930
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 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
The Latest Type Fashions
Toronto
1899
Tubbs Wood Type
Tubbs
1902
Semainier typographique 1889
Caractères Elzéviriens… / Spécimen des caractères anciens…
Turlot
1890
Spécialité de Caractères
WarneryDigney
1875
Specimens of the Job Division Type, Gov’t Printing Office
US Government
1897
Universal Type Caster Faces
UTMMCATF
1914
Specimens of wood type…
Wells & Webb
1849
Schriftproben
Hauptprobe…
Woellmer
1910
Indice de Caratteri…

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.