A few months ago, as I was going through the last few items that my dad set aside for me from his letterpress print shop, I found a coffee can about two thirds full with what looked like Monotype castings of small ornaments…dingbats as my dad, and later International Typeface Corporation typographer Hermann Zapf would call them. (My dad was a journeyman printer and member of the International Typographical Union. I am assuming that someone other than he had committed the sin of putting all of this type in a coffee can.)
The majority of these ten and twelve point (less than a quarter inch square and a little less than an inch tall) pieces of lead consisted of stars, tiny geometric flowers and leaves and sections of wavy lines, but among them were some larger pieces. These were clearly not the kind of dingbats used to create borders in letterpress printing. Each was three and one half picas (approximately half an inch) in width and their depth varied.
73 Pieces of Lead
As I separated these larger pieces from the smaller Monotype castings I noticed that they were foundry-cast components of a calendar. I cleaned them with type wash and a toothbrush and found the smaller pieces had the name of a month with “S, M, T W, T, F S” underneath them. There were two of these for each month. The 49 larger pieces were a variety of calendar numbers sets. Each one had seven days across, but the array of start days and number of days per piece of type varied.
Other than some minor oxidation, these little types cleaned up well, although it is unfortunate that some of them have small imperfections due to their being improperly stored for nearly twenty years.
My initial research about these types did not produce results. I had assumed that American Type Founders (ATF) may have sold them as a Handy-Font, but catalogs of types being cast by current day craftsmen from ATF matrices produced nothing similar to these types. I posted some photos of my discovery on the Briar Press forum and two members, parallel_imp and mgurzo, quickly provided positive identification from the 1957 ATF Typographic Accessories catalog.
Printing with the Logotypes
Now that I knew what I had, I decided to try and compose the logotypes and print from them.
I obtained a 2016 calendar to determine the combinations of months, month numbers, and day-of-the-week starts and assembled a little calendar using the logotypes. I used a 14-point gutter between each calendar “page,” rather than the rule lines that appear between the pages in the 1957 ATF calendar. The little form came together pretty easily, with the exception of having to justify depth for the varying height of each month of the year. The ATF catalog referred to “dotted blanks, cast on a unit 42×4 points” to “make it easy to even up the number of lines whenever necessary.” If my dad had these when he purchased the perpetual calendar logotypes for the Norlu Press, they did not survive to the present day, which is unfortunate, because they would have been very useful for this little project.
I am not sure what I will do with the calendar form for 2016. Based on the ATF samples, it appears that a merchant or businessman would have used these for an envelope stuffer or handout, perhaps as an insert with his or her latest product catalog or price list. The image size of my form is just 17×11 picas, or approximately 2.75″x1.75″. While I don’t have any requests for this practical little piece of late industrial age technology, It was fun to find it, learn its history and play around with these little logotypes.