In the thin of it: Patrick Reagh’s letterpress tribute to Elegy

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[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

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Comments (16)

  1. Posted by Erin Beckloff on 08.4.10 at 7:12 am

    What a wonderful collaborative piece (both the font and print). I swoon for the graceful curves and am especially amused by the word pairing, I’m a sucker for an alphabet themed piece. Fantastic work by all involved!

  2. Posted by David on 08.4.10 at 9:03 am

    Gorgeous! It would look great hanging in my studio. Hope you don’t mind if I re-post on Letterpress Daily.

  3. Posted by A Kuhntributor on 08.4.10 at 9:40 am

    David – We will be delighted & x-heighted to have you re-post on Letterpress Daily! Y, you have made my morning.

  4. Posted by Julie Salestrom on 08.4.10 at 11:09 am

    It’s beautiful! So many times when looking at the ITC logo I wished for that typeface!

  5. Posted by JenniferU on 08.4.10 at 11:37 am

    Type and letterpress – lovely! And how nice it would look on my wall…

  6. Posted by martin fahy on 08.4.10 at 12:46 pm

    Darn I’m number six nice typeface though.
    At last a script type that is legible !

  7. Posted by Erin Beckloff on 08.4.10 at 1:23 pm

    martin – you are #5 I think, A Kuhntributor is Alyson Kuhn of Felt & Wire, there’s still hope!

  8. Posted by A Kuhntributor on 08.4.10 at 1:47 pm

    Martin, don’t despair! Erin is correct — You are indeed No. 5. And Erin, I am extremely ecstatic, enthused, etc. to have entered your Etsy enclave – Alliteratively, Alyson

  9. Posted by martin fahy on 08.4.10 at 1:55 pm

    thanks to you both. You have made my day. Now I just have to wait for the print to arrive

  10. Posted by Nicole Warren on 08.4.10 at 4:56 pm

    I know that I am number 6 or later, however, this font is just so beautiful I had to comment. If this font would have been known to me a few months ago it would have been used on all of my wedding invites, programs, etc. Wonderful work! Thank you for posting this story.

  11. Posted by Antonio on 08.5.10 at 12:11 am

    I think Arron Burns would be proud! Look for his 1961 book

    typo
    graphy

    It’s inspirational!

    Congratulations!

  12. Posted by Delve Withrington on 08.5.10 at 1:04 pm

    Jim Wasco was my boss at Monotype. I remember when he started working on Elegy. I’m really looking forward to seeing this broadside in person at TypeCon! And I’ve got the perfect place for it on my wall; right beside Doyald Young’s “The Parts of a Letter” poster, also impeccably printed by Patrick Reagh.

  13. Posted by Thomas Phinney on 08.7.10 at 2:22 am

    Jim Wasco and I were colleagues for many years at Adobe, and I’ve long been pleased to see him doing so well, and so much cool stuff, at Monotype. Congrats!

    Cheers,

    T

  14. Posted by Jennifer Kennard on 08.9.10 at 2:29 am

    Hi Alyson! Nice to see the many talented hands and minds who have collaborated in this fine effort. Some – I’m most happy to say I know – and others I wish I knew! All – have succeeded in making this a very lovely typographical tribute. Nicely done! I also re-posted over at Letterology!

    Congratulations!
    Jennifer

  15. Posted by Kseniya on 08.9.10 at 10:57 am

    Can’t get enough copperplate–will repost on Ladies of Letterpress!

  16. Posted by A Kuhntributor on 08.9.10 at 11:29 pm

    JK – Delighted to hear from you! And delighted that you are sharing your knowledge of type. Thanks for re-posting. Soon, I will be reporting from TypeCon. Toastily, AK

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