Ludlow Typeface Identification and Use

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1. Ludlow Typeface Identification

Ludlow type design was of the highest quality, but the identification of Ludlow typefaces is unnecessarily difficult. As noted in the Ludlow Matrix Identification Notebook, given a matrix one needs a special gauge and chart to identify the typeface and body (point) size from it. Even given the name of the typeface, finding it in the specimen books can be problematic because Ludlow published their specimen books in a most irregular fashion. Finding further information beyond this is even more difficult, because Ludlow gave very little information about the faces in their specimen books, and usually published the specimen books themselves without date.

For more information on Ludlow specimens and typefaces, see ../ Ludlow Specimen Books and Booklets and ../ Individual Ludlow Specimen Sheets and Advance Showings Notebooks.

The two most important secondary sources regarding Ludlow typography are:

McGrew, Mac. American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century. Second Edition. (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1993.)

This discusses Ludlow typefaces in the context of related typefaces by other manufacturers.

Chayt, Steven and Meryl, Eds. A Ludlow Anthology. (Winter Haven, FL: Anachronic Editions, 1986).

This contains an annotated listing of Ludlow typefaces, with dates, arranged by type designer.

2. Ludlow Type-to-Matrix Details

2.1. Naming

To the typefounder, a "series" is a particular typeface variant (e.g., Tempo Light) in all of its body sizes. Usually, italic variations constitute a separate series. (Thus Tempo Light and Tempo Light Italic are two different series.)

Each Ludlow series was identified with a unique name. Example: "Tempo Light".

Each series was also identified by a unique alphanumeric code. For example, Tempo Light was 28-L. In this code, the number indicates the typeface family (all Tempo series were 28) while the alphabetic portion designated the series. For example, "Tempo Light" was "28-L," while "Tempo Black Condensed Italic" was 28-EHCI" (aside: think of the 'EH' as "Extra Heavy").

I do not know the details of the early assignments of family numbers prior to the first "big" hardcover specimen book of June 1930 (Edition A). However, from at least that point on the family numbers seem to have been assigned more or less sequentially in chronological order.

This typeface "number" bears no relation (that I can figure out, at least) to the pattern of lines identifying the matrices.

Ludlow borders tended to be identified by an alphanumeric code. Thus "A2048" is a border consisting of 10 point (set) Christmas trees on a 12 point body. At some point between 1933 and 1936 many ornamental matrices which previously bore only numbers were given an alphabetic prefix as well.

Many special matrices just got numbers. "1911", for example, is a matrix with a silhouette of a Ludlow Typograph Machine. Other special matrices seem just to have been named (e.g., various fists, commercial symbols, etc.)

2.2. Using

In general (and this is true with all real typesetting) you need to understand, deeply, the difference between a typeface and a font. If you've only ever used a computer, this may be difficult.

Using Ludlow typefaces requires a knowledge of several characteristics of typefaces in general and the Ludlow in particular:

A. Most faces align on their body centerlines on the slug, but "lining" typefaces align on the bottom of their bodies (this is not necessarily the same as their visual baseline).

B. 6-point Lining faces were designed to be used with 6 point molds with "6-LP" sticks (for 6-point Lining Plate). They'll assemble on regular sticks, of course, and cast on 12-point molds, but there will be complexities here.

C. For the lining faces, such as Lining Plate Gothic Heavy, you need to understand the distinction between the visual size of type and the body size of type. Computer-trained typographers can have a very hard time with this, because their tools have denied them an understanding of the relationship between a type's face and its body. Faces such as Lining Plate Gothic Heavy were issued in multiple sizes (designated by number) within each body size. Thus 6-point Lining Plate Gothic Heavy No. 1 and 6-point Lining Plate Gothic Heavy No. 4 are both 6-point body-size types, but they have quite different typeface sizes. If this is mystifying, then put the computer away and pick up some real type.

D. The standard Ludlow italic was 17 degress. A very few typefaces required a 40 degree italic stick (or adapter wedges). "Formal Script" was one of these ("Flair" might be - but I'm not sure). The need for 40 degree italic sticks is not noted in the specimen books.

E. One typeface, Mandate, required special sticks (Mandate Sticks) to achieve the especially tight alignment it required (it is a connecting script). The need for this special stick is not noted in the specimen books.

F. Not all of the specimen books indicate what width stick the various fonts of the typefaces used - at what point did a font of, say, Tempo Bold switch from a 7/8 inch stick to a 1 1/4 inch stick? Of course, I doubt that it would have bothered the Ludlow Typograph Company if you simply purchased every possible size stick.

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