Monotype started to produce typefaces for its type-casting machines back in the late 19th century. The production process at the time started with a set of technical drawings to establish the design and dimensional characteristics of each letter in a typeface that would eventually be cast in lead. Initially, designs were based on existing foundry typefaces in common use in the printing trade at the time, but within a few years new designs were developed, some based on historical types, some completely new designs such as Gill Sans and the iconic Times New Roman, which started as a bespoke family for The Times in the early 1930s before achieving widespread popularity in the following decades.
Monotype’s office in Salfords, Surrey, is on the site that used to be its sprawling factory, which has made it possible for the company to hold onto the complete archive of its Type Drawing Office, even as the company’s manufacturing activities ceased.
The archive records about 80 years worth of typeface development (plus material from other sources gathered over the years), containing detailed drawings for all of Monotype’s hot metal typefaces from 1900 onwards, as well as original artwork, correspondence, production records, and promotional material.
Today the archive is a storehouse of information about many of the world’s classic typefaces currently in common use, as well as being a source of inspiration for contemporary designers both within the company and elsewhere. This month, Monotype is hosting an exhibition of this historical material and forward-looking recent work at Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping. On display will be a selection of rarely seen drawings, artefacts, and publications that capture the history the company alongside examples of the typographic contributions still being made at home and abroad.
Dan Rhatigan — Type Director, UK Monotype
You must go to see this exhibition for yourselves, they give a talk on the history of Monotype and Linotype which is very interesting.
You can also pick up some goodies from their shop that you won’t find anywhere else. I got myself a pack of postcards which were a bargain for under £5.