You may recall that four years ago I found myself spending 3 weeks sorting type, the result of having purchase 30 pounds of Bodoni 12 point that came to me slightly out of sorts.

One of the things I discovered during that process is that my font of Bodoni 12 point was missing the capital K entirely. How this might have happened along the road that drawer of type took from founding to me is a mystery: perhaps it was cast for someone with fear of the letter K? perhaps a printer setting type in a K-less language?

Fortunately this K-drought was the spark that led me to Swamp Press, which was in a position to cast me some supplemental K. I mailed down a type sample for matching, the match was confirmed, and the order was left to me to complete.

Which, procrastination being procrastination, I didn’t.

How often does the capital letter K appear anyway, I thought in the back of my mind.

And so life was good.

Until today.

When, as part of my sesquicentennial setting of type, I had cause to set the credit line for a section of the poem Jacques Cartier by Thomas D’Arcy McGee. The edition from which the poem was taken was, as it turned out, edited by Edited by Carl F. Klinck and Reginald E. Waters.

I am setting the body of the passages in Bodoni 14 pt. and the credit lines in Bodoni 12 pt. Eagle-eyed readers will have already noticed by this point that Klinck starts with a capital K.


Panicky emails ensued to my typefounder with hopes that the K-thirst can be slaked; stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will continue on with setting additional non-K-containing passages. Already, though, I see a section from Klee Wyck by Emily Carr on the horizon.

Moral of the story: when you are without K, act immediately.

The best way to get intimate with a typeface...

Remember that Bodoni 14 pt. that arrived earlier in the week? Well type is useless if you don’t have a holder for it, and so today the solution to that issue arrived: two California job cases from Don Black Linecasting arrived by post. And so this afternoon it came type to unwrap the type and sort it.  I took about 90 minutes, and here’s the photographic evidence.

The type itself came (very well packed) from Swamp Press in Northfield, Massachusetts (a town that has an excellent drive-in theatre, by the way; we were there for the closing weekend 12 years ago).  I ordered 2 caps, 3 lower case of a 36a 16A font scheme: this means, for example, that I received 108 lower case letter a’s (which is 36 times 3) and 32 capital A’s (which is 16 times 2). When the type arrived, it looked like this (sorted in an order I couldn’t divine, but easy to manage nonetheless):

375 Bodoni 14 pt

The California job cases arrived (also very well packed) from Don Black looking like this:

Empty Type Drawer

And after 90 minutes of eeeeeee, aaaaaa, ggggggg, and so on, the result was this:

Type Drawer Filled

I am now primed and ready to begin the process of actually using the type to set the passages needed for the Confederation Country Cabinet.

The sorting process was a revelation: not only did I get acquainted with specifics of each Bodoni letterform (it has a beautiful capital Q, by the way), but also with the font scheme (which reflects, in theory, the relative frequency of letters in the English corpus). You would think, for example, that p and b would pop up more frequently, but for every p there are 3 a’s.  And there are 9 times more a’s than j’s (which isn’t as surprising).

I sized my type order based on the size of the longest passage I needed to set in one go, an excerpt from Our Hero in the Cradle of Confederation by J. J. Steinfeld (147 words, 851 characters), but also from maximum number of any given letter, a high water mark also set by J. J.’s passage, which uses the lower case r 55 times.

My relationship with Bodoni has never been more intimate.

Firing up the Cruise Ship Boilers

Another cruise ship season starts next week – May 8, 2014 – here in Charlottetown. Over the period from then until November there are 68 scheduled visits by 12 cruise ships.

The Charlottetown Seaport continues its unhelpful practice of locking the schedule data inside an HTML table and so again this year I have liberated into more useful forms:

As in previous years, this is unofficial, subject to be wrong, etc. etc. But it’s a much richer set of data that supports myriad ways of maintaining continuous partial awareness of whether the city is to be overrun or not.

375 Bodoni 14 pt.

I’m working on a tiny part of a 2014 Sesquicentennial Public Art Program piece with artist Brenda Whiteway. Ironically, Brenda and I came together by way of Papeterie Saint-Armand in Montreal, where she went looking for paper and found me in addition, via a reference from owner David Carruthers.  I met David back in 2010 and have been a happy customer of his paper ever since; that he could play letterpress matchmaker only adds to his halo of wonder.

Brenda’s piece is titled Confederation Country Cabinet and my small part of it consists of hand-setting the type for, and printing, 6 passages of sesquicentennially-appropriate text selected by Brenda. She’s very kind (and brave) to trust me with this, as it’s by far and away the biggest letterpress job I’ve ever taken on (“biggest” inasmuch as there’s a lot of type to be set; ultimately I’m only printing one of each piece).

Which is how I came to accept delivery of this in the mail today from Swamp Press in Northfield, Mass.:


Swamp Press is, among other things, a type founder, and what you see here is part of a font of 375 Bodoni 14 pt. that I ordered from Ed the typefounder a couple of weeks ago. It is, in other words, fresh type.

I selected the Bodoni for several reasons: 375 Bodoni 12 pt. was the first face I ever owned; I purchased a job case from Don Black Linecasting four years ago (before I even knew how to spell it!) and then later acquired a font of Bodoni 24 pt. from a printer in Montreal (type I used to set, among other things, raffle tickets, Catherine’s art show poster and Lubricate Often).

It’s a typeface that pre-dates Confederation: Giambattista Bodoni designed it in 1798, 66 years before the Confederation Conference that we’re celebrating this year.  Bodoni, writes Robin Dodd

…a best known for bringing the modern typeface to its height of elegance and sophistication. His modern typeface reached its peak of perfection in the late 18th century, and remained popular throughout the 19th century.

Could there be a better typeface for commemorating this occasion?

To arrive at 14 point as the size I needed necessitated a lot of futzing and fitzing to arrive at a paper size and type size that would suit pieces that range from a single sentence to multiple paragraphs, and which include both poetry (and thus hard line-lengths) and prose.  I even, in a daring fusion of my analog and digital selves, coded up a purpose-built tool for placing the order:

I think this is going to work out; it will all play out, one way or the other, in the next week or two.

Ed at Swamp Press, by the way, has become the caretaker of a collection of Monotype punches that were rescued from the Mount Stewart dump by my friend Heather dump after Gerald Giampa’s left them there following the auction held after he was flooded out.  I made Ed’s acquaintance, in turn, via the selfsame Don Black who sold me my original Bodoni: that font was missing upper case K, and Don referred me to Ed as someone who could cast me some. A few years later I met him face-to-face at the Printing Arts Fair north of Boston and it gives me great pleasure both that he’s taken on the punch stewardship and that I’ve had occasion to have him cast type for me.

Is Charlie Brown a Good Man?

Charlie BrownFor several weeks now we’ve been subjected to entertained by rehearsals for You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown here in the Reinventorium, another fringe benefit of having an office colocated with PEI’s premiere venue for musical theatre.

Like Anne and Gilbert that almost killed us kept us in rollicking good spirits last summer, this means that one must be able to do complex digital work while “okay, again, from the top… You’re a Good Man, Charlie…” rolls over and over and over and over again a mere 15 feet from where you type.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to find my way there, and more than once I’ve found myself gaily whistling the chorus on my way to lunch.

One thing you gotta understand about this production of Charlie Brown: it’s no half-baked amateur production. This is professional musical theatre that is – as I can well-attest better than anyone who’s not in the cast – rigorously rehearsed by a top-notch crew of performers. It will be good and you should probably by a ticket right now.