Many of you may be aware of the three commercial Chess fonts offered by Alpine Electronics, Hastings, Linares, and Zurich.
Others of you may be aware of fonts available freely from such designers as Armando H. Marroquin and Eric Bentzen.
However, the history of characters for printing chess diagrams with metal type seems to be obscure.
I have found that the "Kingdom" design from Armando Marroquin resembles the chess diagram characters included in the 1923 ATF catalogue.
I have found some clues to the most common style of chess diagram pieces in (somewhat) older books: in addition to an 1897 ATF catalogue, an 1841 one from Henry Caslon also shows one cutting of this style; there seem to have been several slightly different versions that closely resembled one another. This is the style seen in Alpine Electronics' Hastings, and in Armando Marroquin's Leipzig as well.
However, the style that was nearly ubiquitous in American chess books of the 1960s, exemplified by Alpine Electronics' Linares, and also digitized as the DiagramTTUSCF font with ChessBase and the freeware Good Companion font by David Brown remains completely mysterious. This despite the fact that I've pretty much narrowed down the suspects to two: Linotype and Monotype.
I have learned that it was in use as early as 1942 - and that a variant, with an alternate shape for the Pawn to resemble that of the older style of chess diagram symbols, was not only used in the book "The Golden Treasury of Chess", but also by at least one newspaper.
Also, an account on the web of the publication of a book about the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972 notes that chess diagrams had to be set using metal type, although the rest of the book could be done by means of phototypesetting.