Inside: A collection of Holiday and Christmas decorative prints from the American Type Founders Specimen catalogue Book 1923.
I’ve always been fascinated with letterpress printing and used to own a couple of Adna letterpress machines. I was reluctant to let them go, but they took up a lot of space, and it’s a very time-consuming hobby.
I did however cling onto the my collection of ancient wooden type and borders.
Being a letterpress geek, I was fascinated when I came across the 1923 American Type Founders Specimen book. And couldn’t wait to share some of the fun Holiday borders and decorations in the catalogue.
American Type Founders Specimen Book
Twenty-three metal-type foundries merged in 1892 to establish The American Type Founders. They covered 85% of the metal type market in the US.
Many of the well-known fonts used today, such as News Gothic, Century Schoolbook, Franklin Gothic, Hobo and Bank Gothic, were designed by the Founders
The American Type Founders regularly published impressive specimen books. These large printed books are catalogues of the fonts, borders and decorations available to purchase. But they also include suggested examples for good layouts and advertisement ideas.
It wasn’t just a massive sales book at over 1000 pages, but also a bible dedicated to typographic art that contained samples of the type available and showcased ideas on how to use it.
The books are still considered masterpieces of letterpress art and type layout today. The most impressive of them was the 1923 edition. It cost over $300,000 (over $4 million in today’s money) to produce 60,000 copies of this metal-type bible.
The book, published in the roaring ’20s, provides a snapshot of the Arts & Crafts movement and the era of Art Deco.
Because the books were so helpful, it’s hard to find copies in good condition. Most have torn pages and inky finger smudges.
The Importance of Wel Designed Type
The Founders specimen book also reiterated the importance of type in the printing industry, as highlighted by these extracts in the preface.
“Study this catalogue page by page. It is not a mere catalogue but a veritable encyclopedia of typographic styles. Herein are the typefaces which establish typographic fashions, and also many beautiful examples of how these typefaces may be used to please the printer’s customers.
These examples are not shown to embellish the catalogue but to demonstrate to the printer that extra profits may easily be obtained if the printing is done with typefaces of higher merit in their design, which impart extra value to the printing. Study this book in the interests of your own customers“
“The printer is judged by the work he creates. He creates type forms— nothing else. Whether he prints a hundred or a million impressions, the merit or demerit of the type form is unchanged. If the type form is inferior, no excellence of paper or of press manship can do more than emphasize its inferiority. If the types used in a type form are not well designed for their purpose, no skill of the compositor can overcome their limitations. “
Christmas Type Decorations & Borders
The hundreds of pages of type and font examples in the book may be fascinating for those interested in typographic art, but they aren’t for everyone.
So I’ve decided to feature the colour plates in the book that focus on the decorative holiday type. They would look fabulous printed and displayed as an alternative Christmas decoration like my Christmas invention patents. Or they would even look great displayed in a unique picture frame like the Christmas botanicals on the site.
All the vintage decorative type pages are in the Public Domain, so you can print and use them as you wish. Just click on the title above the page you want, and a higher-resolution image will open in a new window in your browser for you to save or print.
Decorative Christmas Elements
A collection of classic Holiday decorations from graphic type of poinsettias to candles and santa.
I love the stockings hanging on the mantle and the reindeers pulling Santas sleigh.
There are few religious references to Christmas on this page with the wise men and the star of Bethlehem.
Lots of bells and Christmas trees with splash of mistletoe.
Examples using yellow and blue ink as well as the traditional red and green.
The Christmas & Holiday Borders
All the graphic designs are printed in traditional Christmas colours of green and red.
Fesitve borders of bells and holly leaf garlands.
Borders of green bells and ivy.
The decorative holly borders with this type design have red berries.
Not the priece of each indivual component of the borders in the center.
Ribbons and holly.
Decorative Christmas tree borders and Holly corners.
I found a page full of Cherubs in the American Type Founders Specimen book and have included it here as it fits in with the festive Christmas theme of decorative type.
For exciting prints from catalogues, check out this fantastic collection of vintage art supplies or even these beautiful rose illustrations from old gardening catalogues.
Check out the Index of American Design for more vintage American cultural prints.
Other arty and graphic image collections on the site you might want to check out are these colour and pattern charts from old art books. And Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament.
Another popular collection or the vintage Japanese graphic prints from the Shin-Bijutsukai.
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Thursday 3rd of November 2022
Wonderful content! Thank you so much!
Friday 4th of November 2022
You're welcome, thank you.