Type making costs through the ages

Hi everyone,
I'm searching for documents, books, articles, about the evolution of type industry, especially about the costs and the workforce needed to produce a font from its early begining to today. Does anyone know where I could search ?
Thanks in advance : )


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    From the early beginning?

    I have a collection of old (free available) books about typography, but mostly in German language. Some contain calculations, measurements and prices. But never saw records about costs, workforce and duration needed to cut a font. You only can estimate in some well documented work of famous type-cutters, what they produced in how many years.

    E. g. about the Austrian Alois Auer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alois_Auer it is said, that 110-thousand forms are from his (own?) hand. In his time as director of the Austrian State Printing House within 7 years they cut 44 fonts in foreign alphabets. 1851 they had 604 fonts.
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    Pierre CaussePierre Causse Posts: 4
    edited January 2020
    Sadly I don't speak German : / 
    Yes, I could try to estimate it that way, you right.
    I'm surprised it is so complicated to find some documents or studies about that on the internet. But English isn't my native langage, I might use the wrong keywords while searching.
    I'm curious because I was wanted to know how each new type making techniques impacted type industry as a business, and ultimately, compare XVIIe century and XXIe in term of ressource, workforce, time, money needed to produce an alphabet.
    I've read some history book about what its looks like, but real numbers would have been great.

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    Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 173
    edited January 2020
    This is a tricky topic, because studies of the kind you are looking for have not been published. The information that is available tends to be part of works on different subjects. I touched on these themes a little bit in my doctoral dissertation, which should be published online in a few weeks. I don’t have any data about the size of 17th century typefoundries, but I do have some idea of how typefoundry sizes changed between the 18th and 19th centuries, i.e., before industrialization and after it.

    There are exact figures available for Berlin typefoundry sizes in the late 18th century. A typefoundry back then often only had about 5 employees max, if it was not part of a larger printing house. That could play a huge difference. One Leipzig printing house at that time probably had dozens of employees casting fonts of type alone.

    After industrialization – so in Germany after about 1850 – typefoundries grew to first have a few dozen employees, then to a few hundred or even about 1,000. Most of those peoples’ days entailed standing at casting machines casting the letters that other employees (usually women) would then sort and package for shipment to customers.

    Only a few people in even a large typefoundry might be involved with designing new products. A firm with 1,000 total employees may have had about 15–30 people doing that. But there were several typefoundries, usually smaller ones, that did not make many or any new products at all. Instead, they bought and copied designs from other founders or from
    independent punchcutteries (which were VERY small businesses).

    Digital font development today is more like the pre-industrial era than it was like the factory system. But the training experienced by workers then and designers now, as well as their comparative social backgrounds, is probably very different.
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    Sadly I don't speak German : /  
    From your name I would guess French.

    Often you will not find directly, what you want to know.

    My primary interests are historic typefaces, orthography and typography.

    For typefaces search terms can be type specimen, probes, type catalogue, and the German variants of it Arbeitsprobe, Schriftmuster, Schriftenkatalog etc.

    Or you search information about a specific typeface. Often they are named after a type designer. So maybe you read information about this person, history of the company.

    Or you search history of printing, typography, type foundries. You will maybe find some information about economics, or references to other books with promising titles. Some foundries printed books about their own history at an anniversary.

    I guess you will find books about the history of printing and types in any European country in the local language.
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    IMHO, you can certainly use some logic to optain and deduce the costs of creating and manufacturing a typeface prior to the 1980s Adobe PostScript & the digital desktop revolution.

    Any large type foundry or company manufacturing printing equipment and manufacturing font products like Mergenthaler Linotype, Monotype, etc., employed a large amount of resources to this process.

    There were dozens of individuals dedicated to the font design and font manufacturing process. During my employment at Linotype Hell (1976-1995) there were about 200 employees between both locations in New York and Germany. Estimating the font production costs based on rent, overhead operating expences, salaries, medical coverage and company matching retirement funding would be difficult to estimate and calculate. My guess would be that the cost was somewhere in the range of 1-2 million dollars to produce a family of 12 new typefaces for production. A good guess I think.

    However, after Adobe PostScript and Desktop processing came on the scene the costs dropped significantly. All one needed was a desktop computer and an inexpensive font program to create a font.

    I have an example of a good test case to offer to get a general idea of costs. One highly trained type design individual was able to produce (single-handed) a family of 12 digital fonts in just under a year. This involved marking up existing hand drawings of the regular font (in the archives) and converting the drawing to vector data. Then manipulating the vector points onscreen to produce a proper heavy weight and interpolating all the additional inbetween weights and styles (mathematically) using Ikarus M software. The cost estimate about 150-200 thousand USA dollars. Just my guess, based on the cost of a salary, desk, equipment, programs and the such.

    Big difference from prior font development costs. Of course, today, anyone can make a font, sitting in his home, for considerable less than even that. Of course, the results and quality of fonts will differ significantly. There are varying degrees of experience.

    Tomorrow the costs will drop even more significantly when AI software and robotics take over the process ;-)

    It has already started to happen....
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