[Alyson Kuhn] Typophiles, take note! There’s a new font in town … with a profile that will make you smile. If this typeface reminds you of something — perhaps something beautiful from your past — here’s a hint: Its name, Elegy, is a tribute to Aaron Burns, one of the original founders of International Typeface Corporation.
For almost 40 years, designers and other graphic communicators have wanted to buy “the ITC font,” which wasn’t a font at all — just three exquisitely hand-lettered words. In 2008, Ed Benguiat, who drew the original ITC logotype back in the early ’70s, gave Monotype Imaging his blessing to expand his three uppercase and 12 lowercase characters into a typeface. Monotype Imaging has posted a great backgrounder about Jim Wasco’s process of designing Elegy at fonts.com. Allan Haley, director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging, also commissioned a limited-edition broadside to celebrate the new release. The broadside describes the typeface’s attributes in 26 alphabetical word pairings.
The broadside was printed letterpress at Patrick Reagh Printers in Sebastopol, Calif. It is no stretch to say that the Elegy broadside is a swellegy to Reagh’s craftsmanship. The broadside looks deceptively simple. It is printed in one color, basic black, with no imagery, no solids, no reverses. However, letterpress printing involves pressure, and it is tricky to balance the pressure and ink coverage needed for large type and tiny type.
The broadside’s image area is 8.5 x 14.75 in. — well within Reagh’s maximum plate size of 16 x 20 in. The headline, An Abecedarian Elegy, is set in 70-pt. type, and the word pairings are set in 38-pt. But the “thins” in these letterforms are so thin! Reagh wanted to capture their almost ethereal elegance without plumping up the rest of the letter — or risking broken swashes.
The colophon, at the very bottom, is set in 11-pt. Golden Type, itself a typeface with an illustrious history. The trademark symbol after the word Elegy is … only 5-pt. type! Reagh pronounced himself “cautiously optimistic” about the temperamental compatibility of the 70-pt. headline and the 5-pt. symbol. Two days later, he confirmed his satisfaction with the completed broadside: “The TM is legible enough to satisfy the most demanding magistrate.” Th@ P@!
The broadside is printed on Mohawk Superfine Eggshell, White, 100t. Everyone attending TypeCon 2010 will receive a copy, courtesy of type quizmaster Allan Haley. The first five readers to comment on this post will also receive one, courtesy of Mohawk Fine Papers!
Patrick Reagh has been a printer his entire life. He does not have a website, but he does have an impressive archive, a magnificent library and a wonderful way with words. He recently participated in the Letterpress as a Business panel at the San Francisco Center for the Book — which you can read about here, and hear here.
Ilene Strizver of The Type Studio typeset the broadside, and Alyson Kuhn is rather x-heighted to have written the word pairings.
Production photos by Armin Mayrhofer