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type & Lettering Tuesday February 09 2010 11:31 pm

Fallen type

fallen type

We’re intrigued by the lack of knowledge about the processes of the earliest printers using movable type. Little is known of how Gutenberg accomplished the printing of his Bible except for the Bible itself, but the quality and permanence of the printing is quite amazing. A bit of evidence that can be seen in some early printing is something known as “fallen type.” When these printers were using inking balls, the sticky ink would pull out individual pieces of type if not locked up well. Above is an example owned by Lenore Rouse, Curator of Rare Books at the Catholic University of American in Washington, DC. from a Bible printed in 1480. The character sort was accidentally left on the form as it was printed and gives us a visual impression of the physical form of the type.

That hole in the type, which is almost always evident in the earliest fallen type samples, is quite interesting and has conjured much speculation.

If you would like to know more about why that hole might be there (or are interested in the history of typography) we would suggest a great blog, Typefoundry: documents for the history of type and letterforms by James Mosley. James wrote a nice article about just such type. Here is the link to his article on Fallen & Threaded Types.

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