It seems possible that certain decorated types were made by digging away “highlights” on solid type punches.
But this would mean that those punches could no longer be used for making the solid style, only the highlight style.
That seems rather a waste.
Would it have been possible to make a steel copy of the solid punch, and then dig out the highlights on the copy?
Or some other method?Above: an early example by Fournier le jeune, from 1765, scanned from Updike.
What kind of mechanical process did they use?
Surely it can’t have been by eye.
Wouldn’t they have wanted to keep the solid-letter punches for use later, to make fresh matrices? (The matrices being of less durable material than the punches.)
This is a spread from Fry’s specimen of 1828.
But he doesn’t discuss the issue that occurred to me, which was that once a punch had been “tooled”, it could no longer be used to make matrices of the un-decorated style.
But perhaps the already-punched, un-decorated matrices were, for the typefounder, durable enough to continue to cast type from. Or, perhaps the founders would produce many matrices for each letter, from the same punch, so they had a goodly supply of them, so it didn’t matter if the original punch had been tooled decoratively.
The total number of strikes (unjustified matrices) that could be made from one steel punch is a random number. All punches will break eventually, after a certain number of strikes. Some punches broke the first time, others only on the 10th or 20th time. As James wrote, a punchcutter could recut a punch, and surely must have done this pretty regularly, while they were busy supplying different printers and founders with full sets of duplicate strikes. No punchcutter ever would have written a letter to a customer saying “sorry, I was going to send you a set of strikes from my Cicero Italic, but then the punch for my lowercase e broke, so this whole product is gone from my catalog forever. Woe is me!”
Your mention of stereotyping, Dan, is promising. Stereotyping existed before electrotyping, by Didot in 1800 at least, done with fine plaster, presumably.
If not mechanically copying punches, perhaps:
>> What kind of mechanical process did they use?
>> Surely it can’t have been by eye.
Also, if you edited your original punches with inlines or ornaments, you would not be able to make more duplicate strikes of the original design to sell to other founders (without remaking the original punch). All the methods that you are suggesting don’t make any economic sense with my reading of the historical record.
Thanks for your erudition, everybody!
One other thing that occurs to me: there were very few characters in these decorative fonts, which one is apt to forget in today’s practice of making huge fonts, so cutting fresh punches for a couple of dozen characters, no lower case etc., would not have been too onerous. And if any extra, rare characters were required, they could have been made on the fly by engraving straight onto plain roman type.
In conclusion, it’s likely that fresh punches were made for these early decorative styles, but following the proven design of solid roman letter forms.
If the designer was making a fresh set of punches for a highlight style, why include the “inlines” on the wrong side?
In the fresh punch scenario, why go to the trouble of meticulously tracing and cutting the solid design, if that makes it so hard to produce a satisfactory highlight effect?
The designer must have been aware that the left stem of the M was not satisfactory, with the new highlight cramped and thin, but couldn’t remove or redraw the existing dug-out line on the right of the stem.