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 bits of metal type 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 Jill to wondering how many she could find in the Lead Graffiti 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 and to showcase 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 Jill through almost every book on type in Lead Graffiti's library. She made lists of options for every letter of the alphabet and looked through the studio's not inconsiderable type cases, random galleys and Handy Boxes trying to locate the perfect specimen to illustrate the chosen terms. Jill's 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.

A personal note : 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.

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Production details

ABECEDARITYPE : a typographic collection of sorts

THIS PLAYFUL ABECEDARIAN BOOK of typographic letterpress sorts is drawn from the Lead Graffiti collection of wood & metal type. Each page features monumental (almost 7" tall) extra-condensed Gothic capital letters that stand in stark contrast to the delicate typographic illustrations that accompany them.

The 2nd & 3rd images to the left show the binding structure and a typical inside spread.

Edition : 26 books, signed by Jill Cypher and numbered, printed in 2017

Size : 32 pages, 5.25" x 11.25" overall

Binding : Bound by hand in a flutter book format with glued foredges

  • Cover boards wrapped in book cloth with an inlaid paper label and a hand-painted book cloth spine

  • Text block printed on cover-weight Suture paper with hand-sewn Lokta paper endsheets

  • Pages include title, typedex, and colophon

Production  :

  • Designed and handset in Spartan and Jefferson Gothic metal type, Gothic Extra Condensed wood type, with a variety of additional wood and metal type and printers ornaments as illustrations

  • Printed slowly & patiently via letterpress in black and warm gray inks, on a Vandercook Universal III and SP15

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