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P22 type foundry revives important wood type designs

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 | 3 comments

P22 type foundry and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum are proud to announce a partnership that brings 19th Century ingenuity into relevance with the latest online technologies. This joint venture, known as the "Hamilton Wood Type Foundry" (HWT), will see a large collection of wood type designs converted into digital fonts that can be used with the latest Webfont CSS and Opentype programming abilities. P22 is working with the Hamilton Museum and other collections of scarce printed specimens as well as actual wood type to render these classic designs into fully functioning computer fonts.

Wood type first appeared on the printing scene in the early 1800s. This innovation allowed for letters to be made at very large sizes, previously not possible with metal type. As a result, posters and advertising materials underwent a massive transformation throughout the 19th Century and even more so into the 20th Century. By 1900, The Hamilton Mfg. Co. had acquired most of its competitors in the field to become the largest manufacturer in the world. Over time, wood type for letterpress printing gave way to newer technologies and became forgotten in barns, basements, and curio cabinets. The iconic look of wood type has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity for its aesthetic that evokes everything from old west “wanted” posters to rock, country and blues music gig posters. However, it's mostly the handmade and hand printed sensibility that holds great appeal as something of a remedy to the omnipresent cold and clean computer design of the last decades.

The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton's collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world and an unparalleled source of research material for type designers.

P22 type foundry, an independent design house, has been making computer fonts inspired by historic lettering styles for over 18 years and currently has over 1,000 unique designs in their font offerings. P22’s attention to historical accuracy, along with acknowledgment of the source material, has made it a go-to source for iconic and important fonts including those associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Bauhaus, famous artists' handwriting and the legendary London Underground lettering. The inclusion of HWT to the P22 roster is a perfect addition to the legacy of keeping classic designs relevant and usable in contemporary design.

The first release from HWT coincides with the US Presidential election season. "HWT American Chromatic" evokes classic Americana with stars and multi-color layering options. This highly decorative font set can be used in print and online display for sincere and ironic uses alike. The original design from 1857 was created as a two part font that selectively overlapped parts of each letter to achieve a third color where the inks overlapped. These 'chromatic' fonts are considered among the high points of the wood type era. Coincidentally, the latest introductions of web based typography allows for layering and transparency that directly parallels the innovations of the 19th century…for today's web use. This font will be available to the public in the first week of October 2012.

For more information, please contact

Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum:

Layering type with CSS z-index


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