Type Synopses

Type (from Edinburgh City of Print)

A type synopsis is a way of describing how many of each character a complete set — or ‘fount’ — of type contains. When founders sold type on a great scale, type was sold by weight and older catalogues show how much type would cost depending on the weight of the fount.

It’s a fascinating area — how is it possible for type founders to judge the right proportions of words needed to fulfill the needs of printers? Different synopses were adopted for different purposes (like titling or display type; and ‘book work’) and from different foundries at different times.

There are some subtleties also: some founders would alter proportions to fit their casting machinery. Hence why some founts arrive that are not in alphabetical order. Others would swap out some characters to give the impression of a bigger fount.

John Southward’s Practical Printing of 1905 includes a footnote to say —

“There is a tradition in the oldest English type-foundry-the Caslon, in Chiswell Street, London-that the bill [of type] originated in a labourious and elaborate calculation of the number of letters used in setting a lengthy debate in the House of Commons, where is was supposed the best and most comprehensive English would be spoken”

This page shows some UK synopses: from Adana (who specialised in the smaller printer); Startype (a larger commercial foundry); and Miller and Richard’s Wood Letter Fount.

These apply to the English language only. Adana noted in their price lists that some overseas agents had adopted different synopses. Even with the UK, Startype supplied their customers in Wales with founts having fewer j, k, q and xs

Once you have your founts worked out, you’ll need to know where to put them in the case. David Bolton’s site of Type Cases shows both the cases and the different ways of organising the space.

As ever, any additions are welcome

Adana

Adana published two founting schemes: one for titling and caps only founts; and another for book work.

Scheme Adana offered this scheme in founts of…
Smaller sizes Larger sizes
2A 4a 48pt
3A 4a 36pt, 30pt
3A 6a 24pt, 18pt
4A 9a 14pt 36pt, 30pt
5A 12a 12pt, 10pt 24pt
6A 18a 18pt
8A 35a 14pt, 12pt
10A 48a 10pt

Book Work

Founted like this –

UPPER CASE LOWER CASE
Character A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 A7 A8 A10 Character a3 a4 a6 a9 a12 a18 a35 a48
A 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 a 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
B 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 6 b 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
C 2 2 3 4 4 5 5 7 c 2 3 4 4 7 10 19 27
D 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 7 d 2 3 4 6 8 11 21 30
E 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 e 4 5 8 12 16 24 47 64
F 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 6 f 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
G 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 6 g 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
H 2 2 3 3 4 5 5 7 h 2 3 4 6 8 12 24 32
I 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 i 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
J 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 j 1 2 2 3 4 5 9 12
K 1 1 2 3 3 3 3 4 k 1 2 2 3 4 5 9 12
L 2 2 3 4 4 5 6 8 l 2 3 4 6 8 12 24 32
M 2 2 3 4 4 5 6 8 m 2 2 4 6 7 10 19 27
N 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 n 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
O 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 o 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
P 2 2 3 3 4 5 6 8 p 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
Q 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 q 1 1 2 3 3 4 6 8
R 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 r 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
S 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 s 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
T 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 t 3 4 6 9 12 18 35 48
U 1 2 3 4 5 5 5 7 u 2 2 4 6 7 10 19 27
V 1 1 2 3 3 4 4 6 v 1 2 2 3 4 5 9 12
W 2 2 3 4 4 5 5 6 w 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
X 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 4 x 1 1 2 3 3 4 6 8
Y 2 2 3 3 4 4 4 6 y 2 2 3 4 5 7 14 20
Z 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 z 1 1 2 3 3 4 6 8
& 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 � 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
� 0 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 � 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
� 0 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 fi 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 4
$ 0 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 fl 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 4
� 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 ff 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 4
1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 5 ffi 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3
2 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4 ffl 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3
3 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
4 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
5 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
6 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
7 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
8 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
9 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
0 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 5
. 2 3 5 7 9 12 14 16
, 3 3 5 7 9 12 14 16
1 1 2 2 2 3 3 4
: 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3
; 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3
! 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 4
? 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2
1 2 2 2 2 3 3 4

Titling and Caps Only Founts

Character A2 A3 A4 A6 A8 A12 A20 A24
A 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
B 2 2 2 3 3 5 8 10
C 2 2 3 4 5 8 13 17
D 2 2 2 4 5 7 11 13
E 3 4 5 8 10 14 24 30
F 2 2 2 3 4 6 9 12
G 2 2 2 3 4 6 9 12
H 2 2 2 4 5 7 11 13
I 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
J 1 2 2 2 3 4 6 7
K 1 2 2 2 3 4 6 7
L 2 2 3 4 5 8 13 17
M 2 2 2 4 5 7 11 13
N 2 2 4 6 8 12 20 24
O 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
P 2 2 2 4 5 7 11 13
Q 1 1 1 2 2 3 4 5
R 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
S 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
T 2 3 4 6 8 12 20 24
U 2 2 2 4 5 7 11 13
V 1 2 2 2 3 4 6 7
W 2 2 2 3 3 5 8 10
X 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 4
Y 2 2 2 3 3 5 8 10
Z 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 4
& 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3
AE 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
OE 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
$ 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
1 2 2 3 3 3 4 7 10
2 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
3 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
4 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
5 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
6 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
7 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
8 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
9 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 8
0 2 2 3 3 3 5 9 12
. 3 3 3 4 5 8 16 20
, 3 3 3 4 5 8 16 20
1 1 1 2 2 2 5 6
1 1 2 2 2 3 6 10
: 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 5
; 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 5
! 1 1 2 2 2 3 6 7
? 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3

Miller and Richard

Miller and Richard offered wood letter as a ‘six dozen set’ in the following proportions-

Character Number Character Number
A 3 R 3
B 2 S 3
C 3 T 3
D 2 U 3
E 4 V 1
F 2 W 2
G 2 X 1
H 2 Y 2
I 3 Z 1
J 2 ; 1
K 2 : 1
L 3 & 1
M 3 . 3
N 3 , 3
0 2 1
P 2 1
Q 1 ! 1

Curiously, they refer to the exclamation mark as ‘mark of admiration’.

Startype and Supertype

Startype of Birstall, West Yorkshire, supplied the following founts (weights are also included)-

Point Size Weight (kg) Synopsis Point Size Weight (kg) Synopsis
6 2.5 60A 120a 8 2.5 40A 80a
10 5 50A 100a 12 5 40A 80a
14 5 30A 60a 18 5 18A 36a
24 5 10A 20a 30 5 6A 12a
36 5 4A 8a 42 10 8A 16a
48 10 6A 12a 60 10 (cored) 4A 8a
72 10 (cored) 5A 5a

All of their founts were made in proportion to Cap A, rather than stated tables. Percentages are-

A 100 F 50 K 40 P 50 U 70
B 50 G 50 L 75 Q 25 V 40
C 75 H 75 M 75 R 100 W 50
D 75 I 100 N 100 S 100 X & Z 25
E 125 J 40 O 100 T 50 Y 50
, 100 50 : 40 ! 20 50
. 100 50 ; 20 ? 20 Figs 1-0 50

Titling founts were made in the proportions above (along with book founts). This contrasts with Adana’s two schemes for titling and book work. Brian Horsfall tells me that the proportions above were devised over a long period based on experience. While Startype could have adopted a more scientific approach, it wasn’t possible without some sort of automation to check previous orders.

Acorntype

John Eickhoff’s Acorntype of Bristol took great pride in offering ‘card founts’ — type to a 5A10a synopsis. It is reproduced here —

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
5 3 4 3 6 3 3 3 5 2 2 4 3 5 5 3 1 5 5 5 3 2 2 1 2 1
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
10 4 6 7 13 6 4 7 10 4 4 7 6 10 10 4 3 10 10 10 6 4 4 3 4 3
½ & , . ; : ! ? ( ) ff fi fl ffi ffl Figures
2 2 5 5 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 3 each of 0-9

Information other founders is always welcome, please get in touch.