6th August 2022

You've probably installed new fonts on your computer at some point and it's actually a fairly easy process. Find a font online, download it, unzip it, open it and click install. Done! Not even a reboot is required. Installing new fonts for a letterpress is not quite the same. Locate a font online, negotiate a price, buy it, wait for it to be delivered (or collect it if it's a big font), find some space to store it, sort it out into a case so that you can set it more easily.

That is of course assuming that the letters (sorts) are all in order and not just in a big pile. So here's how I spent a full day of my weekend. Sorting out lead typeface, much of it tiny 8pt, into appropriate cases. The typeface is dirty, a combination of ink, age and lead. Actually it's made from an alloy as lead wouldn't stand up to the printing process too well. The alloy is made from varying degrees of materials. According to Letterpress Commons the typeface is made from "a variable alloy of 54-86% lead, 11-28% antimony and 3-18% tin. Antimony hardens the metal. Tin toughens the metal, counteracting the brittleness of antimony, as well as increasing the fluidity of the molten metal.".

Some of the fonts I bought are neatly ordered, others are in a pile and some were neat but got jogged out of place during transit. A box of unsorted type is called a Hell Box for good reason. After much squinting and a nice cold beer I now have neat cases of sorted typeface that I can use with ease. The cases used to store the typeface are called a Type Case (not a box or a tray but a case) and once you learn your layout it can be quite quick to load type onto a composing stick. I'm going to keep everything neat and always put type away once I'm done so I can avoid this in the future.