A typographic collection of sorts

OLD-FASHIONED ALPHABET abecedarian books for children with their quaint and charming illustrations were the inspiration for this book by Jill Cypher. In place of the typical animals and objects, you will discover that the images are made of typographic “sorts,” the generic term given to the individual handset type metal bits used in letterpress printing.

A second inspiration for this book was Keith Houston's Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks. His entertaining and historical look at many of the symbols we so often take for granted set me to wondering how many I could find in our studio.

Ever since Lead Graffiti was established, Jill has admired a number of beautiful and unusual elements in the typographic accoutrements that were acquired to outfit a working letterpress studio. So a personal challenge in creating this book became to limit the source of all the type and imagery to whatever could be found in the Lead Graffiti collection. In other words, there could be no computer or photopolymer used in its production.

The search for terms and their matching images lead me through almost every book on type in our personal library. I made lists of options for every letter of the alphabet and looked through our not inconsiderable type cases, random galleys and Handy Boxes trying to locate the perfect specimen to illustrate the chosen terms. My typographic unicorn is the interrobang, a wonderful mashup of a question mark and exclamation mark, which unfortunately does not inhabit a single dark and dusty corner of Lead Graffiti's letterverse.

The large alphabet letters are printed from antique 40-pica (about 6 2/3” high) Gothic Extra Condensed wood type. The wood grain is visible in the printing of several of the letters, as well as the nicks and dents from a lifetime of service to the dark art of letterpress printing. Closer examination reveals that at some point, all the letter Os were lost or destroyed and a spare Q had its tail removed to make the alphabet whole again.

In this version of an abcedarian, each letter of the alphabet refers to a specific typographic letterpress glyph (character) or term. I hope you enjoy discovering some of the arcane and unusual terminology used in typography as much as I enjoyed researching, typesetting and printing it. ABECEDARITYPE is entirely handset in wood & metal type and printed slowly & patiently via letterpress at Lead Graffiti in Newark, Delaware.

Production details

ABECEDARITYPE : a typographic collection of sorts

This book is currently available in our Lead Graffiti store online.

  • Edition of 26 books, signed by Jill Cypher and numbered, printed in 2017
  • 32 pages, finished size 5 1/4" x 11 1/4," bound in a flutter book format with additional hand sewn endsheets
  • Designed and handset in Spartan and Jefferson Gothic metal type, Gothic Extra Condensed wood type, and a variety of additional wood and metal type and printers ornaments as illustrations
  • Pages include the title, typedex and colophon
  • Printed via letterpress in black and warm gray inks, on a Vandercook Universal III and SP15
  • Text printed on cover weight Suture paper with Lokta paper endsheets
  • Hard cover wrapped in book cloth with with an inlaid paper label and a hand-painted book cloth spine

Next book : Moments no. 1 : The Librarian Made Us Do It