Accents in hand typeset letterpress printing

Blocks for filing metal letterpress type.

Blocks for filing metal letterpress type.

Filing away the back of the type.

Filing away the back of the type.

A short while ago some mystery objects fell into my possession and it soon transpired that they were, as I had suspected, tools used in the craft of letterpress typesetting. The tools in question are two beautifully handmade filing blocks, in which a piece of metal type can be firmly held so that the back of the type can be filed away to accommodate an accent. These filing blocks could also be used to remove portions of the body from drop capitals or for adjusting letters to facilitate kerning.

The image below is taken from Georg Kandler’s excellent book Alphabete – Erinnerungen an den Bleisatz and shows how a separate accent is floated above the filed letter. In this example, it is likely that the letters would have been cast on an irregularly shaped body but the same effect can be achieved by filing away a portion of a standard letter.

In addition to supplying founts of type with accented characters, typefoundries also supplied sets of separately cast accents, often cast on extremely small body sizes.


One Comment

  1. Posted April 23, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Those two holding devices were called
    ‘fudging boards’, invariably home made,
    usually from bits of brass rule, and
    the property of the maker, just as was
    his composing stick and maybe his box of setting rules. Whats more, fudging boards were usually hidden away rather,
    maybe because he was about to file and cut about ‘the masters type’, Commonly
    used for morticing display characters
    like cap A and Y to make them interlock with others and give a much better spaced line

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