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You are here: Home / Type & typography / Did photography kill punchcutting?

Did photography kill punchcutting?

Daniel Reynolds ATypI 2016 • Warsaw, Poland Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw ASP

Despite the provocative title, this presentation’s theme does not center on the transition from metal type to photo-typesetting. Instead, it investigates changes in both the design and production of typefaces from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. Many conference attendees will already be familiar with two technological innovations from the nineteenth century that allowed matrices to be manufactured without steel punches first being cut (electrotyping and pantographic-engraving machines). This paper proposes that a third factor would increasingly limit the decision-making role punchcutters performed in the type-manufacturing process: the invention of photography and its adoption as a working aid by typefoundries. While photography would not yet make punchcutting redundant, the author is of the opinion that typefoundries would likely have never undergone extensive collaboration with external designers without the ability to reduce and reproduce working drawings. How many of the iconic typefaces of the twentieth century ever would have appeared without this step having been put into place? While the primary focus here rests on German typefoundries, examples from other countries are also drawn upon. This paper presents elements for the first time from the author’s ongoing doctoral research at the Braunschweig University of Art.

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