Type is a beautiful group of letters…

“Type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters.” – Matthew Carter, type designer

Both typesetting and typography are about the presentation of textural material in type. But whereas typography is the art of designing and arranging type, typesetting is the actual craft or process of setting the type for print. In recent years and with the digital evolution these differences have blurred. The old, laborious and expensive way of hand-setting individual lines and pages of text, as used by Johannes Gutenberg for his printing press in the mid-15th century, evolved throughout the centuries and has been slowly replaced with mechanical typesetting (Linotype, 1884), phototypesetting (cold type, 1960s) and finally on-screen composition. Not to forget Letraset as well.

Back in the days when typesetters were still sought after, type foundries published type specimen detailing what fonts a typeface consists of, usually displaying text in various point sizes and even letter samples, paragraph, newspaper, display and text page settings. Type specimen books often came with advice sections for designers and typesetters. And often enough these books and sheets were a piece of art on their own.


William Caslon’s dedication of a specimen to George III.


A classic – specimen sheet by William Caslon


Examples of how fonts could be used


Advertising was a good way of showing the best use of a font.


Book by printers Osterwald (Germany) displaying their fonts…


… and giving advice as well.


Various cards displaying typespecimen


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