Mad, Bad (but Good to Know): A Survey of Type Specimens Offline and Online.
Type specimens are an important resource for both the study of the history of type and the study of type design. Prior to the 21st century they were not widely accessible as with a few exceptions, they were widely scattered among various public, private and university libraries, printing museums, and individual collections. Many specimens exist in only a few copies, even many that were printed in editions consisting of tens of thousands of copies. Multiple copies of specimens often differ in collation and many are incomplete or mutilated. Despite the spate of type specimen facsimiles published in the 1960s and 1970s, the study of type specimens was difficult.
All of this has changed dramatically in the digital era as not only have specimens been digitized, but a rapidly increasing number have been posted online. The great majority of these are freely accessible and many are also downloadable. Thus, type designers, type historians, and other researchers can now easily examine specimens in far away locations; compare multiple copies; and trace type designs from foundry to foundry and country to country.
This talk will outline the different kinds of type specimens that have emerged over five centuries, summarize their features and contents, and then survey the type specimens that have been digitized and uploaded to the Internet. The survey will include assessments of the quality and utility of the various digitizing efforts and display approaches.
The Herb Lubalin Lectures are recorded and made available here and on Vimeo with the generous support of TypeCulture.