Monticello

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Background

The origins of the typeface we know today as Monticello can be traced back to America’s first successful type foundry, established in Philadelphia by Archibald Binny and James Ronaldson in 1796. Among the most enduring American types ever designed, it has now nearly realized a proverbial nine lives. Its first three iterations took the form of hand-set type and spanned more than a century. Its fourth incarnation, an arduous conversion to Linotype, was undertaken in the 1940s by C.H. Griffith at the Mergenthaler Company with the aid of Princeton University Press’s P.J.Conkwright. It was this revival, intended to provide a historically appropriate face for the publication of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, that gave the font its modern name. The advent of computerized typesetting systems in the 1980s led to the creation of two intermediate, and unsatisfactory, digital renditions of Monticello. The accumulated defects were finally rectified by Matthew Carter’s masterful reinterpretation in 2003. At about the same time, a digital version tailored to produce photopolymer plates for letter-press printing was created for Andrew Hoyem’s Arion Press in San Francisco. Though it carries a different name, this was Monticello’s eighth life and a kind of return to the past. With the Jefferson Papers project expected to continue until 2026 (the 200th anniversary of the third President’s death), and with the pace of technological change showing no sign of abating, a ninth life seems inevitable.

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Last edited by skate on November 28, 2009, 03:44pm EST

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