TypograFriday: Typeface, Hamilton


Last weekend we saw Typeface at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It’s a documentary about letterpress, woodtype and especially the Hamilton Wood Type Museum by filmmaker Justine Nagan. We enjoyed it for its empassioned subjects and typegeekery of a level not seen onscreen since Helvetica typegeekery. However, it’s a somewhat melancholy film: its noble agenda seems to be to get people enthusiastic about preserving typographic history, it’s just not terribly optimistic about it.

A few posters for the film printed at Hamilton and available for purchase.

typeface_posters

Clockwise from upper left: Edition of 22 by Nick Sherman, monoprint and edition of 35 by Stacey Stern, edition of 5 by Dennis Ichiyama.

Hamilton was the leading American producer of woodtype through the 20th Century: if you’ve spent time in any type shop undoubtedly you’ll recognize their imprint on the handles of the drawers of type cases. Their early history – where they bought out more-elaborate Victorian competition then, once they’d achieved a near-monopoly, promptly doubled their prices – is covered unsentimentally in the film. Indeed, the juxtoposition of what an industrial operation Hamilton made of woodtype and what an artsy crowd inherited its remains is one of the animating tensions of the film: oldtimers who were cutting type when they shuttered two decades back shaking their heads at the abstract collages being printed by visiting letterpress artists. The closed facilities of Hamilton, barely transformed, became the Hamilton Wood Type Museum and it seems a pretty fascinating place. Next time we’re through Wisconsin (or even a state away) we’ll definitely make the detour.

hamilton_2

hamilton_specimen

hamilton_scraps

Three pics courtesy of Nick Sherman: a print from an enormous point-size numeral 2, the cover of a specimen book, and pantograph scraps from the cutting of Matthew Carter’s contemporary Hamilton-cut woodtype face, Van Lanen Latin.

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