For the September 2012 launch of The Complete Engraver, Monotype Imaging’s Steve Matteson and Terrance Weinzierl created 2 new digital fonts available FREE based on original engraver’s lettering styles, JMC Engraver and Feldman Engraver.

In Terrance’s words:

“As a designer, the revival projects I’ve done—like ATF’s Romany and now JMC Engraver and Feldman Engraver—have not only helped me understand typographic history better, but helped me draw better curves and build better fonts. It’s also been a pleasure to offer some technical assistance to Steve Matteson for his Goudy revivals. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we indulge in these organic designs when we get a chance, as it’s very different from our daily challenges at Monotype requiring pixel perfection like Microsoft Segoe and Google Open Sans.

The story of JMC Engraver and Feldman Engraver starts with Nancy Sharon Collins, design educator and stationer extraordinaire, proposing to Steve Matteson that some engraving designs be revived as part of authoring her upcoming book, The Complete Engraver. The designs she proposed were a selection from ‘masterplates’, or lettering templates used with manual engraving machines, a vertical transfer pantograph system proprietary to the social stationery industry. We selected a pair of designs for revival, and I slowly built them over the next 24 months.

The design process started with scanning prints made from hand engraved steel plates. With the bitmaps as a guide, I redrew the shapes with singular, vector lines. This approach of a single line is similar to the line drawn by the engraver. We added a precise stroke weight to that line, and then finally cleaned up the outlines for artifacts and mild distortions from the stroke expansion. Similarly, the stroke weight can be controlled when engraving by using different sized master plates or engraving at a steep angle. To put it simply, we dug the dirt away, rebuilt the skeleton, and put the muscle back on.

Although there are many ways of recreating those shapes, the process of a single line expanded with a stroke, just felt like the right process to follow for these typefaces.

Nancy also provided ligature studies hand engraved by a young engraving acquaintance, Emily Delorge. This was an important reference because the specific set of tools, and process, allows for a certain curve quality that can easily be lost through geometric drawing tools.

It’s these physical processes, such as engraving metal, that still inform us today. I’m talking about how computers have icons for ‘locking’ that look like physical padlocks. Universal symbols are packed with metaphors taken from physical objects. It’s somatic. These haptic experiences can be lacking from our increasingly digital lives, and I think it points to the resurgence of the handmade: script lettering, letterpress, and the DIY aesthetic.”

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