Thou Art the Man

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December 21, 2014 at 6:51 AM #20701


At age 80 in 1920, Nelson C. Hawks [1840–1929] was finally persuaded by the scholarly journal The Printing Art to publish his personal account of How the Point System Was Started. Front-matter of the January 1921 issue previews it:

“We have been very fortunate to be able to obtain the story of the beginnings of the point system, which has been told with considerable detail in this number by Nelson C. Hawks, the originator of that system. His story will be found immensely entertaining…” (It’s hilarious!).

This recently discovered article raises questions about some key points in the THP feature on the US Point System.

Read Thou Art the Man

January 18, 2015 at 1:58 AM #21451


Images documenting the feature on the US Point System are now available for browsing (sorry, I forgot to click the “public” button!). The ones for the related article on Nelson C. Hawks have been public all along.

In case you haven’t read these posts, they are much more interesting than the titles may suggest (guaranteed, or your money back!). Indirectly, the highly controversial point system issue is the reason why The Type Heritage Project exists today.


Even when pica sizes of fonts produced by different foundries were consistent, the baselines rarely aligned properly when combined in the same layout. By the 1880s, US printers demanded interchangeable type bodies.

An organization of US typefounders adopted the Point System in October 1886. The expense of implementing it was a “fatal blow” to producers already devastated by cut-throat price wars. Results:

  • Unification of American Type Founders’ Company in 1892.
  • Discontinuation of fancy styles cast on obsolete bodies.
  • New “Clearance Sale” distributors to dispose of discarded faces (tons of them!).


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