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New Casting of Goudy's Cloister Initials

Sunday, June 15th, 2014 | 0 comments

One of the more popular fonts in the P22/Lanston Type Co. collection is the LTC Goudy Initials (originally known in metal as "Cloister Initials") These decorative capital initials were offered in EPS format for $35 each in the late 1980s but converted to a single font when P22 the Lanston Type library was acquired by P22 in 2005. The original artwork for the digital version was not as precise as Frederic Goudy's artwork for the 1917 release by American Type Founders (ATF), but for sizes under 100 points, this was indistinguishable. In order to accommodate uses of larger sizes of the digital font, we decided to go back and redraw the Initials from the ground up. We want the best possible source artwork, so we sought out the largest size specimens for reference. 144 point was the largest size produced and type foundries seldom showed all letters of any type sample in their specimen books. The ATF catalogs show almost complete fonts in 60 and 72 point but only a few at 144 and 120 point.

Since one of P22’s key reference sources for the Frederic Goudy material is the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection, we approached them to see if they had fuller samples of the initials in larger sizes. The disappointment of not having additional initials in printed form was tempered by the revelation that the Cary Collection held the original ATF brass matrices for casting the type in 120-point size. While it was an elaborate way to get good printed proofs, it did seem possible to arrange a casting of these mats so they could be printed…and if one set was going to be cast, why not do a few more? That sounded relatively easy in theory, but the reality is there is only one person who has the machines that could cast such large type. Since that gent in question is our friend Gregory Walters in Piqua, Ohio, (who had cast all of the sample k characters that are included in the Making Faces DVD packaging), we thought we would at least run the possible scenario. After some discussions with RIT and Mr. Walters, we determined that we could do this! In the meantime other artwork had surfaced to allow us to continue on the redrawing of the digital version. The digital version is near completion, but interest in the metal casting project had grown, so P22 decided to move forward and enlist the services of Greg Walters to cast these mats for the first time in over a half century. Because the Cary Collection is not a static library archive, but rather a living repository of printing history, were able to arrange the loan of these one-of-a-kind objects to engage once again in their intended use: casting fresh type for printers.

To this end, we are offering the option of purchasing a font of Cloister Initials 120-point metal type to printers and collectors. For details on pre-ordering, see the P22 merchandise page. The casting will be done on a very limited basis and because of the time required to set up and cast each piece, will not be cast in large quantities as backstock or recast in the foreseeable future. We encourage pre-orders if you are interested in obtaining a set or individual A-Z letters. Now that we have had one day of casting complete, we are able to determine the time and material cost more accurately.

Gregory Walters has amassed a collection of letterpress and type casting equipment that is truly a wonder to behold. In his type foundry without a name that also houses his beautiful 1956 Desoto Firedome, there are type casting machines and matrices of every size and configuration. From a table mounted hand mold from India to Ludlows to Giant Pivotal casters, this unassuming building in Piqua Ohio is a hidden hoard of type nirvana.

Using the Giant pivotal caster, (AKA the Adcut caster), that was originally owned by American Type Founders, Gregory Walters sets up each cast for the Cloister Initials with a series of lock-ups to ensure precision alignment. The various adjustments needed include manually aligning the matrices to the mold and locking up in all directions. The Giant caster was designed to cast various large sizes of type and cuts up to 288 point. The final lock-up uses an improvised threaded bolt to replace a piece missing from the original ATF rig. All surfaces need to be free of foreign matter otherwise a squirt of molten metal may escape through the slightest gap or misalignment.

The type is being cast using harder foundry metal that has a higher percentage of tin and antimony. Linotype and Monotype metal has more lead which make them softer. Some foundry metal also contains trace amounts of copper. This casting in particular includes copper n the mix as indicated by the reddish tint seen after casting.

The casting of each piece of type of this size requires several steps and is not in any way an automated process. The initial set-up to get the first printable casting took 2 1/2 hours. The heating of the metal pot itself must be done 2 hours in advance, so it was almost 5 hours before the first letter was made.

Unlike the Thompson caster that is seen in the Making Faces film, , this process is much slower and a truly skilled operator is required. This giant pivotal caster uses a hydraulic plunger. Mr. Walters owns a second Giant Pivotal caster from ATF but it has a hand-operated plunger. This hydraulic caster still requires careful attention. Each cast requires up to four pumps of molten metal from the plunger, through the nozzle, into the mold and mat. As a safety precaution, Mr. Walters stands behind a plexiglass shield and wears a wool hat when engaging the plunger. Random squirts of metal happen regularly despite precautions of examining, aligning and cleaning the many surfaces that are all crucial to the type being successfully cast. After casting, the assembly is taken apart (often the use of a hammer is needed to dislodge the lockup) and the whole process needs to be repeated.

The type that is removed from the mold and matrix is not quite ready to print. There is a "jet" on the bottom that is the artifact of the funnel-like entry of the hot metal. This is removed with a couple knocks from a hammer. The bottom still has a rough channel where the jet has broken off and then requires machining to be sure that nothing extends beyond the flat bottom and the type itself is exactly .918 inches high (type high). It is now ready to be printed.

The final result is one single decorative initial letter that weights in at a hefty 3/4 of a pound. These are made to be used as a printing sort or as a decorative paperweight, it is a rare piece of typographic history brought back into use.

Gregory Walters is a member of the American Typecasting Fellowship (also abbreviated ATF) which meets bi-annually and is open to those interested in type casting in the 21st Century.


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