‘Grand Cru Classés’ sprouting from Antwerp soil



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    EcTd 2022–2023 graduates

    In my September 2023 post I introduced the Melting Metal; Developing Typecraft booklet, a self-authored publication by the graduates of the Expert class Type design 2022–2023. It is the result of a thorough investigation into the (reuse of) patterns recorded in frameworks during the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism style periods. Superimposed on these patterns are the idioms of punchcutters. One of the questions being asked is whether the relevant punchcutters can be regarded as type designers in the modern sense of the word or merely as ‘type refiners’, consciously or perhaps even unconsciously changing details of established frameworks setup by their predecessors?

    The graduates not only did intensive research, but also managed to organize their collaboration in such a way that this resulted in the booklet, which is quite impressive. They also started a publishing company: Addition Projects. Melting metal; Developing Typecraft is available via the company’s new website.
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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,977
    Looks like an interesting book, but Canada is missing from the dropdown list of countries to which the company will ship the book.  :/
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    Hi John, thanks for your interest and for pointing out the omission. Sorry about that last one. Canada has now been added to the list.
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    John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,977
    Thanks! Ordered.
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    In 2012, the first edition of the Expert class Type design course took place under the roof of Museum Plantin-Moretus. As I wrote in my introductory text of Melting Metal; Developing Typecraft, rather than focusing primarily on handwriting and learning to look through the eyes of the teacher in an attempt to understand the basics of type, one could also have a closer look at the technical constraints of the early movable-type production process. That is actually typical for the Antwerp approach, call it the ‘Antwerp School of Type Design’.

    Robert Granjons Ascendonica Romaine unitized

    Research into Renaissance standardization and systematization can provide a deeper insight into the intrinsic structure of (unconsciously) reproduced archetypal frameworks: to measure is to know (see also this article). And then it is a good thing that the collection of type-foundry material in Museum Plantin-Moretus is so impressive. Naturally, the influence of the handwritten models, which is mainly a matter of formal principles (morphology), is not ignored during the course, nor the role of the eye in relation to design, conditioning, and typographical conventions.

    Information hidden at first glance can support a more authentic interpretation of the historical source models in question, and distilled patterns can be used to further master the harmonic and rhythmic aspects of type in today’s digital font-production environment. The emphasis at the Expert class Type design course is therefore on research into the intrinsic patterning aspects in historical type, which are both the source and the result of typographical conventions. Information about Renaissance standardization and unitization is distilled from artifacts such as punches (smoke proofs), matrices, foundry type, and prints (see also this video). The results are extrapolated and translated into a systematic approach to digital font production.

    This summer, the EcTd 2022–2023 graduates who created the Melting Metal booklet will exhibit their work together with the current group of students in Museum Plantin-Moretus. The 2024–2025 course starts in the autumn: more information can be found here.
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    Daniel Calders, a talented current EcTd student, defined a workflow to digitally reproduce a type specimen of a historical foundry-type model. To this end, he has automated a large part of the process with a few tools. He called the project ‘Autospecimen’. Unlike the method of distilling widths that I described in my second post from September 2023, Daniel simulates the spacing with LS Cadencer. Because my ‘cadence’ algorithm comes from my measurements and analysis of type-foundry artifacts, including prints, the results will generally be close to the distilled widths. Of course, parameters can be adjusted for a smaller or wider spacing. I asked Daniel if he wanted to share his workflow on, for example, social media. For your information, below are his explanatory images and texts.

    The question that started this little project was: to what extent can I automate a type revival? The type in question is the Descendiaen Romeyn by Christoffel van Dijck (ca.1606–1669) from the 1681 copy of the widow Elsevier (collection of Museum Plantin-Moretus).

    Letters from the widow Elsevier type specimen collected using GlyphCollector

    First, letters from the type specimen were distilled using GlyphCollector.

    Resulting averages cleaned up with Retrobatch

    2. The resulting averages were cleaned up (contrast/sharpness) with Acorn’s batch-editing sister app Retrobatch.

    Cleaned images were auto-traced in DTL FoundryMaster

    3. The cleaned images were auto-traced in DTL FoundryMaster. The outlines were exported as a UFO file.

    The UFO file was opened in Glyphs and characters auto-spaced with LS Cadencer

    4. The UFO file was opened in Glyphs and characters were auto-spaced using the LS Cadencer plugin.

    A specimen proof was typeset in Affinity Publisher

    Finally, a proof was typeset in Affinity Publisher.
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