Archive for the 'business' Category

Type foundry digitally preserves vintage stationer’s lettering styles

December 21, 2011

[Guest editor: Tamye Riggs]

The Sweet collection is composed of typefaces based on the engraver’s lettering styles that came into fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century. The collection is anchored by Sweet Sans, Mark van Bronkhorst’s interpretation of the engraver’s sans serif (kin to the drafting alphabets popularized in the early 1900s).

A type designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Van Bronkhorst had long been a fan of these historic faces, many of which had all but disappeared from use. A few cuts of the engraver’s sans style existed in digital form, including Sacker’s Gothic (Monotype Imaging) and Engraver’s Gothic (Bitstream), but these interpretations were somewhat limited in their scope.

Van Bronkhorst sought to study the original forms in depth. As a graphic designer, he had worked with an engraving house in the past, and was aware that stationers and engravers used “masterplates” as lettering patterns, tracing letterforms with a pantograph device to manually transfer the forms to what would become the printing plate. He began hunting for masterplates, but found that most had been destroyed as engraving shops converted to digital typography. The majority of these shops had abandoned the tedious masterplate-tracing process in favor of more expedient photographic processes where “pretty much any digital font would do,” Van Bronkhorst says. He decided it would be a good idea to preserve the masterplate lettering styles—some good, some bad, some ugly—as they seemed otherwise destined to disappear unless interpreted as digital fonts.

After doing some digging, Van Bronkhorst discovered a stash of antique masterplates. With Linnea Lundquist, he commenced work on the first typeface in the Sweet range—Sweet Upright Script—likely the first digital version of this vintage social engraving design.

Van Bronkhorst then turned his attention to the engraver’s sans. Sweet Sans hearkens back to the same or similar masterplates as Sacker’s Gothic. Upon close inspection, various masterplates of what would seem the same letterforms varied considerably. The process of interpreting the design was one of selecting various forms and characteristics while leaving others out. The engraver’s sans was typically a cap-to-small-cap combination, yet a lowercase model did exist. Van Bronkhorst decided that Sweet’s interpretation would be broad, including lowercase and small caps, and in weights from Hairline to Heavy, with true italics. The result is a nine-weight sans family that pays homage to the charm and dignity of its model.

Encouraged by the positive response to the first releases, Van Bronkhorst is expanding the Sweet Sans family with a slightly modernized version, and plans to continue to gradually introduce more vintage stationer’s lettering styles in digital form. His goal is to carefully build a collection that accurately represents the genre while offering type users a variety of styles to suit their needs.

The Sweet collection of fonts is available at


Save the Date: Thursday June 16 @ TDC in NYC

May 16, 2011

Nancy will explain why the organic nature of steel die and copper plate engraved imagery and text complements and enhances our visual experiences, and will demonstrate the importance of engraving as a modern graphic design technique. She will show examples from several avid collectors of elegant and unique engraved imagery, and share her expertise on engraving techniques and methodology. She will also describe the recent installation of a working engraving proofing press and the establishment of a new and growing engraving community in the great American city beneath the sea (New Orleans).

Nancy Sharon Collins is especially well-known for her exemplary bespoke hand-engraved social stationery. Besides being a stationer, she is a veteran graphic designer, typographer, independent print history scholar, partner in Collins, LLC, director of special projects for the AIGA New Orleans chapter, and instructor of design at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her book about American commercial engraving is due out in the autumn of 2012.

For details and to make a reservation.

“Allied Oil” courtesy of Strathmore archives, Mohawk Fine Paper, Cohoes, NY; Monogram © Richard Sheaff; “D” monogram engraved by Emily DeLorge.

Buy Local Come to Avant Garden Dec. 11

November 26, 2010

Great vendors, great stuff, support local New Orleans artists and the arts community, buy your Christmas goodies here December 11th from 11am until 5pm. Avant Garden is an Arts Yard Sale happening on Saturday, December 11th at 11am-5pm, in conjunction with Art Home New Orleans and Antigravity, with music by DJ Joey Buttons/Disko Obscura.

List of Vendors.

  • Department Of Changes
  • Mens Clothing
  • Defend New Orleans
  • Clothing And Accessories
  • Dirty Coast
  • Prints / Accessories
  • Re-Styling / Shana Griffin
  • Vintage Clothing / Accessories
  • Cane Elysee / Alex Vialou
  • Sugarcane / Various Items
  • Jeremy Thompson
  • Specialty Beverages
  • Press Street / Catherine Burke
  • Publications
  • Constance
  • Books / Prints / Various Items
  • Rebecca Rebouche
  • Paintings / Prints
  • Birdie Birdie / Lisa Cohn
  • Designer Prints
  • Layla Messkoub
  • Prints
  • Miranda Lake
  • Prints
  • Coby Cox
  • Drawings / Paintings
  • Rachel Detrinis
  • Sculpture / Various Items
  • Christopher Alfieri
  • Prints / Artist Photographs
  • Nancy Sharon Collins
  • Designer Prints / Engravings
  • Jonathan Traviesa
  • Photographs
  • Megan Roniger
  • Drawings / Prints
  • Joey Buttons
  • Vinyl
  • Brice Nice
  • Vinyl / Various Items
  • Other Various Items From:
  • Katherine Bray, Karen Kern, Carl Hugmeyer

Is Engraving Important to Design Education?

October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 16 at 2:00 pm
Session IV, Panel 3

The American Printing History Association 35th Annual Conference
Corcoran College of Art + Design
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 Seventeenth St. NW
Washington, DC

(This presentation was first given in Dublin at the 2010 ATypeI Conference.)

Although rarely studied in today’s classroom, commercial engraving for print is a vital element in the teaching of graphic design and media studies at the college and university level. This notion, which will be explored in the proposed presentation, is based on more than a decade of independent study of steel die and copper plate engraving, the recent installation of a working engraving proofing press within the Loyola University of New Orleans graphic design department and the establishment of a new and growing engraving community in New Orleans. This is the first new and only robust commercial print engraving community in North America.

The legacy through which we have studied, and viewed, graphic design, typography and the book arts primarily has been through the lens of the letterpress form. For over 500 years, almost all of our print communication was fashioned within this framework and according to a specific, or implied grid (grid being the series of units aligning both vertically and horizontally in an intentional, recognizable pattern). In the western world, almost every description of commercial visual communication is presented in this format; books, newspapers, periodicals, even the orientation and navigation of websites depend on a grid for their structure.

Engraving, on the other hand, is a fluid, free-hand expression restricted only by the perimeter of the surface upon which an engraving is worked. The exquisite beauty and gracefulness of arcs and shading inherent in the engraved line is unparalleled and had become, until very recently, an unfortunately moribund craft.

This twenty minute presentation addresses ways in which the organic nature of steel die and copper plate engraved imagery and text complement and enhance visual experience, why and how engraving is a central part of any modern graphic design curriculum, and dynamic ways that it can be introduced in the classroom. By providing examples of elegant and unique engraved imagery, we can inspire the next generation of visual thinkers to keep this important art form alive.

© 2010 Nancy Sharon Collins

Are Greeting Cards Dead?

May 19, 2010

Along with technology, the tradition for store-bought notes of sentiment are ever changing, read all about it on Mohawk Fine Paper’s Felt & Wire news blog

(And, you can purchase this amazing, hand engraved “Thank You” card here:

Calligraphic Engraving

September 26, 2009

This past week I spent researching calligraphic engraving at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at University of Texas at Austin. HRC archives hold many copybook (or copy book) specimens, three “The Universal Penman” by George Bickham, great master of this highly specialized craft in 18th-century England, one beautiful copy is in the fabulous bound Beaufoy, H.B.H., collection of English, German and Dutch writing manuals.

I examined over 1,460 individual engraved plates either bound or tipped-in to these books or the Beaufoy collection.  There are exquisite examples of engraved calligraphy but of greater interest to me was being able to look at the structure of engraved letter forms.  I was able to bring with me, and use, the 3X photographic loop, with excellent optics, so was able to see some great detail.

I will be writing my observations here in my blog.  Meanwhile, anyone interested in the genre can go to this bibliography about origins of letter forms including writing and copy books:

Also, a reasonable copy, offset not engraved, of Bickham’s “Universal Penman” can be bought as a Dover edition for fairly cheap.

My favorite specimen was a complete book by Snell, about 4-5 characters per page, 13 plates in all illustrating the entire alphabet.  At the end of which (and I could not tell if it is part of the Snell book or a random, tipped-in item) was a grid comparing each character in the alphabet for Roman, Italick [sic], two kinds of script, “secretary”, “church”, engrossing and several other forms of types.

I will post pictures in the coming weeks, it takes four to six (weeks) for the HRC to process orders for scanning copies.

Love Letters: American Commercial Engraving, Monograms and Social Stationery

September 18, 2009


Please join me at University of Texas at Austin for the most recent rendition of this evolving presentation about American commercial engraving.

Tuesday September 22


Art Building, Room ART 1.120

This lecture will include images from recent research and sources of commercial engraving and specifications for engraving types never before shown in public or discussed.

Heavy Metal Ephemera: The Resurrection of Two Social Engraving Presses

August 13, 2009

This is the story of a 5-year journey in search of an engraving proofing press. Once ubiquitous in small print shops throughout the country, these presses were used to impress small engraved monograms, logotypes and other elements into stationary, envelopes, calling cards, folders and the like.

Readable Text, New Orleans Style at TypeCon 2009

June 26, 2009


12:00 noon, Type in 20

TypeCon 2009, Atlanta

Nancy Sharon Collins talks about FLOOD BOOK and notions of readable text. Audrey Bennett and Ellen Lupton are cited.


In 2005 Audrey Bennett spoke on this topic at Typecon in Boston, she and I have exchanged emails about this, infrequently, ever since.  I was interested in her talk because I was then teaching graphic design and typography at a university literally down the bayou in south Louisiana where illiteracy rates soar.  Recently at an AIGA leadership retreat in  Portland, OR, I ran into Audrey who I had not seen since Boston.  I was very excited to show her a book I designed and was amazed to discover that she had just purchased a copy.

FLOOD BOOK, * as it is named, is a post-Katrina rant—or repetitive chant—with rhyming verse written in Yat which is a local, New Orleanian dialect. Its a little book, the size of a short novella, with compelling illustrations and simple, classical type.  I wanted Audrey to see it because it became a sell out as a tool for teaching reading to those with severe literacy challenges.   Why had she picked-up the book and what was it that inspired her to buy it?  In this presentation I will talk about the typographic and design choices in the FLOOD BOOK project, the coincidence with Audrey and how Dr. Caroline Musselwhite, assistive technology specialist working in the areas of AAC and literacy, found the book useful in her workshops.

* FLOOD BOOK will be on sale at the SOTA book store.

Nancy Sharon Collins on Martha Stewart Wedding Blog!

June 3, 2009

Monograms and hand engraving by Nancy Sharon Collins, Stationer, on Darcy Miller—Martha Stewart Wedding editor’s—blog. See samples and get the 25% Discount now through the end of June.


Nancy’s Website