A Note to Academic Programs with Working Presses,
Working Printing Museums, Centers for the Book

& Letterpress Printers Everywhere.

Updated: Sept. 09, 2009

FOUNDRY TO CLOSE IN 18-20 MONTHS (winter '09)
The Foundry is scheduled to close in 18-20 months. It has been working only about a week each month for the last year, as the owner is away for the remainder. For several years, the owner has been looking  for an apprentice to keep the craft alive, and to take over the foundry. A few men have made an attempt, but sans success. It is a monumental task at the least, as there were multiple levels of each discipline at ATF, viz. design, artwork, matrix engraving, matrix justification, casting, finishing, fonting, shipping and advertising. There are few capable of acquiring a working knowledge of matrix works and casting.

There is good news on this front. A young man has been coming to the foundry to work and learn since Oct. 2008. Of course, it is way too early to know if this is "the one," but he is very promising. If indeed, he makes a go of an apprenticeship, much time in the foundry will be necessary. Much of his learning will be in the midst of the constraints of meeting the monthly overhead, and the qtrly taxes. He is not a man of means, so the inevitable moving of the foundry will pose an equally daunting task of labor and capital outlay. He will need help in this respect from those who believe that foundry-cast type should continue in this world. We are the only working foundry left. All the other countries that had five-plus centuries of typecasting history have decided that continuing foundry-cast type can no longer be justified in our modern world. So far, we have had just enough orders for B-42 fonts and bookfonts of the classic Romans to meet the overhead and about 25% of a living wage. But it seems that the future is brightening just a bit. We have met quite a few young people new to letterpress through the sale of a font here and there. More and more colleges are attempting to re-establish the bookarts programs that were largely trashed when the computer came to power. Letterpress is a part of many of these programs. What is even more encouraging is the fact that people of real vision are a part of several of these college programs.

One obvious conclusion is that the advise given below may be the manner in which foundry type continues. That is, its use. If you have been thinking about a large font, your window is closing rapidly. Our older shelf stock is all but gone, as many l have have learned. Complete fonts of Cloister, Jenson & Tory Initials are sold out and will not be cast again.  But on a positive note, we have been recasting as many of our "out of stock fonts" as we can on a part-time basis. Even more exciting are the new friends we have been making through the ordering of large fonts from printers that have previously been unknown to us!  <need someting here about their awareness of the unreliablity of supplied composition and/or the securing of their independence thereof> This makes us so bold that we have decided to take on yet another apprentice, and
dare to think that foundry type will survive yet another generation.

On the downside, the price of new metal is so high, that it often dictates just how many fonts we can cast. This is a new complication that has us a bit worried, as this has never been a consideration. We have been forced to re-think our ban on in-house smelting. If you have a considerable quantity of clean dumped ATF or European foundry types (especially if you want a book-font), we would like to hear from you. Please understand that we cannot use Monotype or line-cast metals.

Our present stock can be found

Facing the shortsighted scrapping of Letterpress printing programs in the 70s and 80s, the survival of a working press, with its fonts of type and related accoutrements is no small triumph.

Small fonts however, even many of them, have limited usage. The printing of a small 4-page booklet, a small format chapbook or even a more ambitious work, is the logical goal of the working press. Printing a minimum of two pages up assumes that at least four formes have been composed, standing on galleys ready for backing up the pages first printed. Purchasing a sizable holding of a particular typeface by job fonts is not an efficient way to acquire type.

BOOK_FONTS: Since 1993, we have provided genuine book-fonts especially schemed for straight text, poetry or Latin usage. We have tried to eliminate all the excess sorts which remain unused in cases, and made an effort to supply more of the useful sorts which allow more text set for the printer's investment in type. Small bookwork requires an ample supply of type. Our book-font schemes start at 300 36pica/6-inch sort lines of Barth-cast, ATF quality foundry type. All book-fonts are sold by the line, NOT BY WEIGHT. The price per line will be quoted at the time of request, as the price changes daily.

In terms of weight, this would equal apprx.
75# in 12 pt. types, or apprx.
85# in 14 pt. types, or apprx.
100# in 16p.t types, or aprx.
115# in 18pt..
These fonts will set anywhere from 3pp to 32pp, depending on format and length of text-line, and require three California job-cases or an upper & 2 lower cases for disribution. Small caps the the italic can be added at the time of the order. At the this time, 9-8-09, they above Roman fonts would be about $2,800 - $3,200, plus s-caps and italic. [
more info]

For experienced bookworkers, we usually recommend the casting of a 500#/1,500 line font. This is broken down in terms of 5x100. The first 300 lines would be schemed to a 1A/10a ratio. The second; 1A/18a; the tthree groups; 1A/22a. This was the traditional weight font used for private press book printing, and allows for much latitude. The independence and security of knowing one will not run out of sorts, in an environment where the availability of quality metal types is at great risk, is a comfort to the practicing fine press artisan or book-arts program. The only thing greater than a library of books is the independent ability to add to that library with one's own private-press.

We are the last working foundry casting true foundry types. We invite your inquiries on the above.