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.

SchemeAdana offered this scheme in founts of…
Small­er sizesLarg­er sizes
2A 4a48pt
3A 4a36pt, 30pt
3A 6a24pt, 18pt
4A 9a14pt36pt, 30pt
5A 12a12pt, 10pt24pt
6A 18a18pt
8A 35a14pt, 12pt
10A 48a10pt

Book Work

Fount­ed like this -

UPPER CASELOWER CASE
Char­ac­terA2A3A4A5A6A7A8A10Char­ac­tera3a4a6a9a12a18a35a48
A234567810a346912183548
B22334556b2234571420
C22344557c23447101927
D22334557d23468112130
E3456781012e4581216244764
F22334556f2234571420
G22334556g2234571420
H22334557h23468122432
I234567810i346912183548
J11223334j122345912
K11233334k122345912
L22344568l23468122432
M22344568m22467101927
N234567810n346912183548
O234567810o346912183548
P22334568p2234571420
Q11111223q11233468
R234567810r346912183548
S234567810s346912183548
T234567810t346912183548
U12345557u22467101927
V11233446v122345912
W22344556w2234571420
X11112334x11233468
Y22334446y2234571420
Z11111223z11233468
&11112233�11111112
�01111122�11111112
�01111122fi11111234
$01111222fl11111234
�11111222ff11111234
122333445ffi11111233
211222334ffl11111233
311222334
411222334
511222334
611222334
711222334
811222334
911222334
022333445
.23579121416
,33579121416
-11222334
:11122223
;11122223
!22233334
?11122222
12222334

Titling and Caps Only Founts

Char­ac­terA2A3A4A6A8A12A20A24
A23468122024
B222335810
C2234581317
D2224571113
E345810142430
F222346912
G222346912
H2224571113
I23468122024
J12223467
K12223467
L2234581317
M2224571113
N22468122024
O23468122024
P2224571113
Q11122345
R23468122024
S23468122024
T23468122024
U2224571113
V12223467
W222335810
X11122334
Y222335810
Z11122334
&11111233
AE-1111112
OE-1111112
$-1111122
½11111122
1223334710
211222368
311222368
411222368
511222368
611222368
711222368
811222368
911222368
0223335912
.3334581620
,3334581620
-11122256
112223610
:11111245
;11111245
!11222367
?11111233

Miller and Richard

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

Char­ac­terNum­berChar­ac­terNum­ber
A3R3
B2S3
C3T3
D2U3
E4V1
F2W2
G2X1
H2Y2
I3Z1
J2;1
K2:1
L3&1
M3.3
N3,3
021
P2-1
Q1!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 SizeWeight (kg)Syn­op­sisPoint SizeWeight (kg)Syn­op­sis
62.560A 120a82.540A 80a
10550A 100a12540A 80a
14530A 60a18518A 36a
24510A 20a3056A 12a
3654A 8a42108A 16a
48106A 12a6010 (cored)4A 8a
7210 (cored)5A 5a

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

A100F50K40P50U70
B50G50L75Q25V40
C75H75M75R100W50
D75I100N100S100X & Z25
E125J40O100T50Y50
,10050:40!20-50
.10050;20?20Figs 1 – 050

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 –

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
53436333522435531555322121
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
1046713647104476101043101010644343
½&,.;:-!?()fffiflffifflFig­ures
2255222222222222113 each of 0 – 9

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