It’s easy to forget how precious typefaces were before Microsoft Word commoditized them by the zillions into tiny drop-down menus. As Matt Griffin and Matt Braun of Bearded Studio explain, “letterforms were once drawn by hand, cut into wood, and printed onto paper on grand machines: a process known as letterpress printing.” Wood-block display type offered especially wide latitude for creative expression, but now these “fanciful tuscans, outlines and inlines, and multi-color chromatic faces” lay mostly forgotten, rotting in basements or attics. But Griffin and Braun have started a Kickstarter campaign to rescue ten lucky wooden fonts from oblivion, by purchasing them and hand-digitizing them into modern formats.
Saving all wooden typefaces would be tantamount to tilting at windmills, so the Bearded duo is conducting a global search for a “top ten”: “faces with characteristics the digital world is lacking, that are in fine condition, and that are thoroughly complete.” They’ll print the letterforms on a Vandercook proof press, not just once but in several versions at different levels of pressure, to capture the unpredictable physical patterning that wooden type imparts. They’ll even include dinged-up letters as alternate characters, so that their digitized version can still offer typographers a simulacrum of battered retro style. But like true conservationists, they’ll also create pristine, hand-corrected vector versions of each face, so that they can stand tall in your computer’s font manager alongside ageless fonts like Helvetica and Gill Sans.
Sounds like a great plan, and they’ve already raised about half of their $15,000 funding goal. The best part: They’re releasing their first “rescue,” a squat slab-serif display face they’ve nicknamed Fat Boy, free of charge to drum up interest in their cause. How could a type geek resist?