Calypso PF free download

Excoffon’s Calypso now free for download!

During research for my book Letter Fountain many typefaces passed my eye. Most of them designed with meticulous precision and based on the knowledge of readability and technical perfection achieved in hundreds of years. But sometimes fascination strikes when a designer leaves the common path. Roger Excoffon was one of them and for me one of the most striking typefaces was Calypso, a typeface that has a terrible readability, and you can even ask yourself why it is made in the first place. Marcel Olive, owner of Fonderie Olive saw Excoffon experimenting with an enlarged print of a half-tone screen at Olive studio. He was rolling it up and looked through it like a kaleidoscope. A metal type with half-tone dots was not done before and a technical challenge to achieve. Marcel Olive saw the chance to profile the technical capabilities of his foundry and earn a worldwide reputation and gave Excoffon permission to execute the design proposal.

After establishing the angle and size of the dots by Olive Studio each character was drawn dot by dot using a pair of compasses. According to José Mendoza y Almeida, who lead the team at the studio, Excoffon made sketches of the outlines of each character and in the studio shading was added by airbrush. The airbrush shading was converted to a dot-screen that went from deep black to white. It was quite a challenge to transfer the drawings with a pantograph and to scale this complex drawings in different type sizes to the matrices. Then it had to be milled, retouched and casted in lead reproducing all the dots of the dot-screen. Calypso was cast in four sizes: 20, 24, 30 and 36 pt and had 26 capitals, a period, an apostrophe (used a lot in French), and a hyphen.

Most of the typefaces ever made have been digitized. Calypso was no exception. I found and downloaded Calypso Boy from Scootergraphics (Digitized by Marty Pfeiffer) and Calypso by Profonts (digitized by Ralph Michael Unger). Ralph Michael Unger has added numerals, a question mark, an exclamation mark, ligatures and a lot of other useful characters, making it a complete digital font. By comparing the capitals I saw that they where quite different and it seemed to me that they were based on the Calypso silkscreen-printed rub down Letraset version because the dots were not round like on the original drawings I had seen in several publications and advertising for this typeface.

Of course the original drawings were also not exactly the same as the metal type. As earlier written the punches that were cut by the Benton pantograph were retouched and because of that there were differences compared with the original drawings. So the final design had to be found in the actual cast type. I went looking for this type and found the site of D. Stempel GmbH that got the original matrices of D. Stempel AG and all the takeovers Stempel made during their existence. One of them was Fonderie Olive. I ordered a set of newly cast type from the original Olive matrices and found out that it was indeed quite different from the digital fonts that I bought. At that time Marjolein Koper was working as an intern at our design studio Polka Design and I asked her to digitize Calypso. The result was better than the fonts I bought but still I was not satisfied. After she came back to work at our studio on a steady base we photographed the metal type with a Micro Nikkor on a D800 to get the sharpest enlargement we could get. With this pictures Marjolein established the exact angle of the grid and we decided to begin again from scratch. Although it still is not an exact reproduction of the original metal type it has more detail and it can match almost the big reproductions seen in the first advertising in the French printers’ yearbook “Caractère Noël 1957” and recent publications with original drawings. You can download the result of our effort free on our site as TrueType font for Mac and Windows:
Please tale advantage of this utterly useless font in your work and send me some results!

Joep Pohlen, Polka Design/Fontana Publishers, April 2013
Steegstraat 12, NL-6041EA Roermond, The Netherlands

In the picture you see above left the original sample of the 'C' from the Calypso from 1960 in the yearbook Caractère Noël. Below right you see our version. The other two are existing digital fonts from 1997 and 2005. Above the 24 point metal type our version is based on. Of course together with other sources that show original drawings and enlarged type.

Further reading:
Sandra Chamaret, Julien Gineste and Sébastien Morlighem, “Roger Excoffon et la Fonderie Olive”, Ypsilon, Paris 2010 (French/ English).
Rault, David, Roger Excoffon, Le Gentleman de la typographie, Atelier Perrousseaux, Paris 2011 (French/ English).
And a recent article in Eye Magazine featuring an original Calypso ‘R’ drawing on the cover:

dezcom's picture

Something seems to be wrong with the download. Has anyone else had a problem?

hrant's picture

Awesome chromatic layering possibilities.

Chris: Joep doesn't want to make money off of something that doesn't belong [only] to him. On the other hand it might have been [even] better to sell it and donate the money in an honorable way.


polkawithfontana's picture

I will check the download Chris ...

dezcom's picture

I understand that, Hrant. I was just hoping he had a grant from someone to finance the work.

dberlow's picture

Thanks for posting those pictures of highly accurate pantographic punch cutting demos. I've never seen those and miss Benton's dearly. I'm sure it was the best in field.

Hrant "David, if anybody's guesswork is wrong please explain how it's wrong, so we can learn. And -as Joep reminds us- the Olive foundry had a technical advantage over its competitors "

Is that required, no matter how ridiculous the guess, or how persistent the insistence? and, is Joep "reminding us" of a fact, or a claim?

So, let me put it this way — the "exactly the same way" above means drawing negative (wrong reading), patterning positive (right reading), punch cutting negative, matricing positive, type casting negative, so one can be printing positive.

The first three steps, where a pantograph may be used without recklessly abandoning economic sense, are only constrained by the required result, not the tool. The Calypso producer had access to the final design, (per letter), in the drawing, the patterning, and the punch cutting. So, some letters might have been drawn exactly to the punch, and others you would only recognize completely as a punch.

But ultimately there is not restriction on what a skilled one with a hand tool and zoom capabilites could do to the punch. This has been discussed several times here.

I think, you were suggesting that they drew Calypso positive, patterned negative, skipped punch cutting, and cut thousands of matrices directly via an undisclosed direct matrix cutting process that left the face clear? Is that it? Besides showing me the shape of the cutting head, Why? What would make a founder abandon a normally barely profitable process as it was, for a rare display face they could do the exact same way as everything else with no apparent problem?

Believe it or not, Hrant, there is nothing unique in the history of type, to be found in Calypso except for Calypso itself. There is no little space, no little shape, and no mystery combination of them that had not been punch cut before, though in different combinations than those that yielded Calypso.

Hope that helps.

hrant's picture

You're not required to educate. But assuming that everybody but me knows all the answers is irrational. And I don't see how my guesses are "ridiculous"; they're based on my years of listening to experts and my -limited- experience using a pantograph (at Rimmer's studio). Could I be wrong? Duh. But guessing is all I can do, and "ridiculous" is mean-spirited hyperbole. That said, I do appreciate you taking the time to explain your thoughts.

I chose the word "remind" carefully. Do you think Chamaret, Gineste, Morlighem and Rault are all wrong to trust their sources? If not, what was that technical superiority?

there is not restriction on what a skilled one with a hand tool and zoom capabilites could do to the punch.

The diameter of the pantograph's cutter is a restriction. Did they not use one? If you're saying they cleaned up after the pantograph (like that one guy in the Tetterode photo at the end of that thread I linked to) wouldn't time be a restriction? There's a reason that guy ended up losing his job... And remember that Excoffon was all about speed, for example producing Banco in two months.

Using a pantograph to directly cut a matrix (without making punches) is not mysterious; it's something little ol' me has done under Rimmer's guidance:

What I'm suspecting is there was some kind of twist to the conventional production you describe in order to get Calypso's sharpness of both inside and outside corners. But I admit I haven't yet taken the time to fully wrap my head around that idea. Luckily being wrong in public is the fastest way to learn!

cut thousands of matrices

Why thousands?
And why would the punches be far fewer? It's not like any design element in Calypso can be reused.

there is nothing unique in the history of type

Unless we're using a contrived definition of "unique", I don't buy that at all. Even if we're limiting it to manufacturing technology, there have been periodic inventions that have qualitatively changed some aspect of the result. The invention of the pantograph is an obvious big example; it caused the demotion of optical scaling (no matter how hard the Bentons tried to educate people).


HVB's picture

Joep: I couldn't find those images or anything similar at scootergraphics ... no hits on finding Belafonte. All I found was a demo version of Calypso Boy.
- Herb

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, Jim cut matrices rather than punches because he was making small amounts of type for his own use, used a display caster that took a particular kind of thin brass matrix, and lacked the machinery for finishing punched matrices. His workshop process was a craft one, not an industrial one. A commercial foundry producing type in volume for sale would need mechanisms to produce multiple matrices, which is where the punch comes in: it provides the master that you only need to cut once, from which you can produce any number of matrices. The largest number of matrices would, of course, be required for hot metal systems, in which the matrices were the font. But even for foundry type you'd want to be able to produce more than one matrix for each character.

polkawithfontana's picture

Herb, I made a mistake thinking it was from Marty Pfeiffer. Sorry! It is an open source experiment from Loic Sander from March 2011 and as far I know (see link) you can download it there. Check out his blog on typography and other stuff, it is nice!

polkawithfontana's picture

Nice that Hrant mentioned Jim Rimmer. Sadly he died in 2010 but Richard Kegler from P22 made a fantastic film of his work before he died and released it in 2011:
With the film comes a metal type of a 'k'. Its production can be seen on the DVD. Buy it! You can also see in the film the principle of working with a pantograph. I compiled some pictures (stills from the film) so you can see the process. In the first picture you can see the stages from hand drawn original to an outline made in Ikarus software, a cut out original for the pantograph, an engraved matrix half the size and a matrix (copper) that is again made from the first matrix that is fifteen times smaller. In that small matrix he has cast the 'k' that can be seen in the last picture photographed from the metal type that is supplied with the DVD. I have visualised some stages (not all) so you can see the process. In the second picture from below you can see on the left the guiding pin and on the right the engraving tool that is very sharp and that can make very detailed engravings. However you can also see the toolmarks it leaves on the surface of the casted metal type below. When he had made a punch he could have smoothened the surface and the result had been smoother on top of the metal type. This is the 'lack of sharpness' due to the mechanical process I talked about before. It has also influence on the contours of course and not only on the surface.

polkawithfontana's picture

Chris, we checked the dowload but it seems to work here. Please let me know when it doesn't ...

Té Rowan's picture

Poking about on the åkaløllip blog landed me this:

Jens Kutilek's picture

The Profonts digitization was listed in Joep’s original post, with the drawing quality quite visible ;)

hrant's picture

John: AFAIK you only need to make multiple sets of matrices if you're selling the matrices (and not just cast fonts). Did Olive sell Calypso matrices? I thought that sort of think was limited to punchcutters who didn't cast their own type (and yes, hotmetal necessarily). But I can certainly appreciate that Rimmer's production was not industrial-grade.

And/but here's the thing: Do you think a Calypso punch could have been producible with the conventional method (which is what I'm presuming Olive's competitors were stuck with, hence couldn't have made Calypso). Aren't the details (which as Craig pointed out are at both the "positive" and "negative" sides) too fine/labor-intensive to have been made by a pantograph + manual cleanup only at the punchcutting stage? Maybe it was done at two stages - one positive, one negative?

The main things I'm after:
- Is the claim that Olive had some critical technical advantage bogus?
- What could have been the "resolution" limit of Calypso?

Joep, nice stills.

This is the 'lack of sharpness' due to the mechanical process I talked about before.

But -as John implies- how much of that could have been the case at Olive?


Master-Mimu's picture

All free Download ................... What's tips ?

dberlow's picture

John : "A commercial foundry producing type in volume for sale would need mechanisms to produce multiple matrices, which is where the punch comes in"

And in the unlikely event someone is making commercial type without punches, then how many matrices would they need? The type wouldn't even need to leave a foundry to become unsupportable without punches with less then 3-4 sets of matrices, just for Paris.

"However you can also see the toolmarks it leaves on the surface of the casted metal type below."

Oops, i see the router bit too. That ain't workin', its not the way one normally does it, even if one is forced to.

"And remember that Excoffon was all about speed, for example producing Banco in two months."

Really strange for a guy on speed to design a font like Calypso. You have proof that he was always on speed, or was it just on the way to the Banco?

dezcom's picture

Thanks, Joep!
I got it from your email.
I just checked the link and it now works just fine.

polkawithfontana's picture

bbg, you must not forget that Excoffon was an art director. The main drawing and testing was done by Olive Studio with José Almeida as head of the studio. Excoffon 'only' drew the outlines (of course for this a lot of vision was required) and Excoffon left the complex shading and dot screen testing to Almeida and his team.

hrant's picture

Speed: I wasn't there, but if you read the book(s) it seems pretty convincing.

On the other hand, as Joep reminds :-) us it's possible Excoffon went fast because others were doing the slow grunt work.


dberlow's picture

Joep, I'm not forgetting anything yet. ;) I know "Excoffon's speed" and that of the foundry producing his types, and... that they are two separate issues. But just for pretend, if foundry said "Whooooa il cow-boy, qu'en est-il de tous ces points minuscules proposées!?" and Excoffon suggested "Eh, sauter les poinçons de vitesse!", what do you think the foundry would say?

Dans le même temps,
"- Is the claim that Olive had some critical technical advantage bogus?"
Oui. Et je sais pourquoi vous ne connaissez pas, ou pourquoi vous ne voulez pas savoir ce que je sais.

"- What could have been the "resolution" limit of Calypso?"
En plus de la meilleure réponse, "none" la meilleure réponse suivante est "Tout ce que vous voulez qu'il ont été", pour prouver qu'ils n'auraient pas pu le faire sans vos "découvertes".

Sounds nicer, right?

hrant's picture

Nah, caustic, unwarranted ridicule sounds about the same in any language. You refuse to believe that my main reason for being here -and there- is to learn (which is something I've been doing from day one). Your loss.

So David thinks that Olive had no technical advantage over its competitors that made the production of Calypso anything special. I think that's entirely possible. But that does mean: some people, somewhere, lied; and the authors of the two recent Excoffon books (not to mention a bunch of other previous authors) were duped.

David also thinks that Joep and I are wrong that Calypso might have had a "resolution limit" (at least below the scanner/camera used) even though a pantograph was -presumably- used (which is only done to save time, and not cleaning up after it saves more time). This I find harder to agree with.

You heard it here first, thanks in large part to my ridiculous, persistent insistence... :-)

So, as an aside, I have to wonder what's worse: My willingness to have my catalytic speculation be misconstrued as "insight posturing", for the sake of learning more stuff faster? Or the fact that most people only share their insights for proving others wrong?


hrant's picture

BTW, I'm still trying to figure out what to make of something in Joep's comparison/macro of April 10: the neck has a peculiar attribute - it's nicely conical a bit below the face, but deeper in it changes into a cool geologic-looking fragmented structure (very visible in the camera/left) one. How does that happen? It's almost like the dots were individually made with punches (driven to differing depths). But that might make no sense, technically or effortwise.


dberlow's picture

"..some people, somewhere, lied.."
Don't bother me, I'm trying to figure out if "Tide gets clothes cleaner".

Sooo... You think a revolutionary founding invention so remarkable as to make Calypso possible, died with Olive. He had no interest in selling it, or licensing it, or doing anything but burying it. He didn't even patent it. And at the same time, companies like Linotype, Monotype, Stemple, and every other foundry in the world knew from the advertising, but said, "Okay, whatever". I look forward to you forgetting all about this by next week, with your usual "follow through."

"You refuse to believe that my main reason for being here -and there- is to learn... for the sake of learning more stuff faster."

It's lazy as you seldom follow through, absorb or reload, but I don't refuse, agree, or have any opinion on "why you is here", much less "what you is doing."

"...most people only share their insights for proving others wrong?"

Fortunately, I don't have to do so alone.

hrant's picture

No, I just think there might be something we might take for granted now that Olive had but its competitors (remember, post-war France) didn't. Could it have simply been the pantograph? Dunno. The alternative is your liars and dupes. Which, like I said, is not impossible. But that idea wouldn't have come out -in public- without both of us. Appreciate that. And hope that the Excoffon/Olive aficionados will take note and react.

I do have too many interests to be able to follow through with enough of them; most of all it's hard to make money with cultural progress - as I'm sure you can attest yourself bringing home the bacon usually involves much more boring stuff (coincidentally as Excoffon himself once said). But I wouldn't trade too many interests for too few. And I wouldn't trade publicly contemplating ideas for making yet another font that a corporation can use to dupe people into buying its junk. This is partly because that's just how I'm made (which means there's no use criticizing it - I'm not criticizing your make-up or life goals); but also because it's not just about me, it's about us: I give people ideas (and I appreciate receiving them).

BTW am I the one hijacking a thread with personal attacks?


polkawithfontana's picture

Has anyone ever seen a design made with Calypso? Beside the specimen from Olive of course. Or is it a ghost ...
A typeface made by Excoffon but to much Excoffon?

gianotten's picture

In the Linotype Typeview Font Catalog 5.0 (1988) the source for fonts like Choc and Mistral is numbered 13. 13 belongs to M. Olive Marseille France. At Tetterode/Lettergieterij Amsterdam we licensed the conventional Mistral from Olive.

gianotten's picture

Joep wrote on April 11:
> Here is the one from Haas. It is the Gutenberg song (Gutenberglied)
> engraved on a 12-pt em-square.
> They called it 'Ein Wunder des Schriftgusses' (A miracle in typecasting).
> It has 357 characters. I believe that it was made for the 400 year
> existence of Haas in 1969.

Tetterode/Lettergieterij Amsterdam made the Lord's Prayer (Onze Vader) in 1951 (100 year existence) in 7 different languages. It was a 10 point em and the average number of characters was 350! The book they made in 1951 (16 pages) is on sale in Germany.

hrant's picture

Joep, not a ghost, a halo. :-)
You don't make real money selling it, you use it to sell the normal stuff more. Like the Audi R8. Calypso's weak market penetration actually reinforces the view that it was mostly seen as a way of flaunting Olive's -now disputed- technical superiority. At least if you buy into the generally accepted idea that Marcel Olive was very good at gauging sales potential; because it could simply have been a flop... and maybe that's when they invented its halo as its raison d'être! :-)

Henk, nice to see you back! Question: is there a way to measure the smallest feature of that Tetterode sort? It would be nice to figure out what was the smallest pantograph cutter that they/people used. Is Giampa's claim of 1/500 inches accurate?


John Hudson's picture

With regard to 'technical superiority', what is claimed? A mechanical advantage? A process? A technical advantage? A financial advantage (they could afford to spend more time)?

The idea of Calypso as a technical showpiece makes sense to me: it's surely a typeface of limited application -- how many jobs would call for such a design? and after it had been used a few prominent projects, would anyone else want to use it? these are the problems of all strongly flavoured display types --, but it's visually so impressive and its materiel so unlike anything else that compositors would be handling. Perhaps this is where 'technical superiority' lies, not in any superiority of technique or process, but simply in being able to say 'Look what we can make that no one else has made'.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, if you seriously want to know what the lower limit of a pantograph cutter is, why don't you contact one of the numerous companies that make, sell or use such equipment?

Mark Simonson's picture

What about the shaded types that ATF did back around 1900? Surely those were at least as detailed as Calypso. Or perhaps those were produced by some other means?

John Hudson's picture

I'm not familiar with those, Mark. Are they in the 1923 specimen?

hrant's picture

John, here's my translation* from Rault's book: "Marcel Olive, a commercial genius, commissioned it not because of its aesthetic attributes but because at that time only the Olive foundry had the technical means necessary to create such a typeface with hatched surfaces, making it a global benchmark for such a venture." So no detailed explanation, but a pretty firm claim, especially coming directly from a straight-shooter like Excoffon. Marcel Olive, I would expect to "embellish" the facts for appearances - but not Excoffon.

* For reference here's the original French: "Marcel Olive, qui avait le génie du commerce, me le commanda non pour ses qualités esthétiques mais parce qu’à cette époque, seule la fonderie Olive avait les moyens techniques nécessaires à la conception de ce type de caractère, avec ses surfaces tramées ; lequel devenait alors une référence mondiale pour son entreprise."

If the above is true, it goes beyond the simple "design novelty" that you're -understandably- speculating. Another reason it was probably not merely design novelty is that those foundries were notorious for copying each other's ideas: we would likely have seen something like Calypso produced by Olive's arch-rivals D&P soon afterwards, but there's nothing. So maybe Olive produced Calypso because it was beyond being copied.

Pantograph limits: From what I know its use in type was particular enough that I'm not sure I could trust any generic/official numbers. For example a manufacturer might say they have a 1/4000 inch cutter, without realizing/admitting that it would be too brittle (and maybe too labor-intensive) for type production; I remember breaking a not-particularly-small cutter at Rimmer's studio (although of course most of that was inexperience). Plus we're talking about pantographs 50+ years ago; I have to assume precision and materials have improved. So I think it remains that asking people here (and probably on ATypI) is a potentially fruitful avenue.

Mark, what's the most elaborate such design? But here's the thing: ATF was not in France.


polkawithfontana's picture

I think Mark means typefaces like this in the 1912 ATF catalogue. This is the Engravers Shaded in 6 pt version. The typometer on the left has a 0,5 mm increment. By the way, it is the etched and sandblasted metal version of the typometer that comes with Letter Fountain that I produced in a limited version in the nineties ( It was called Mackie M.

By the way, Hrant, thanks for your correction on the Ghost/Halo stuff. Halo is much better!

dberlow's picture

Hrant: "And I wouldn't trade publicly contemplating ideas for making yet another font that a corporation can use to dupe people into buying its junk."

Yet here you are, trading ideas about a font company that made a font they can use to dupe corporations into using it to dupe people into buying, believing, or understand junk.

Mark: "Surely those were at least as detailed as Calypso..."

I'm sure there are plenty.

The width of the smallest router used is the tool's limit, but not strictly the limit of the process. In some versions of the process, touch up a six-pattern, a punch, or ten punches, or all the hairlines of the U.C. patterns. In other versions of the process the router was twice the end, as the "success" of the process was judged by getting from one letter drawing to several sizes of patterns and or punches without any manual intervention other than adjustments to the pantograph, and following the drawing and the pattern dutifully.

These latter fonts usually were not such great junk, but they were being used primarily for smaller size junk in more insideous mass media duping, like newspapers, magazines and other free press activities. But the longer a Merg-like junk producer had to futz with the process, the closer they could get to better junk like Benton's. So by the time of founding of the font in question on this thread, most big founders were capable of many different qualities of junk, using a variety of possible duping processes.

Clearly, underlying all of this is that we are discussing a founding period not far removed from a war France had begun as an horse-powered, fort-seeking, agricultural nation, and ended understanding that they had to be on the road to the high tech nation they are today, or get clobbered every 20 years by a gas-powered, blitzkrieging, industrial "neighbor". I think maybe there was no invention here other than there were few better ways to say, "We're back", than Calypso.

hrant's picture

Joep, thanks for that photo. I'll take some measurements now...

David, you know very well that my speculative efforts concerning an archaic production process (with the goal of understanding it better) will not help anybody sell anything; I contrast such stimulating cultural activity with ho-hum financial activity (with everybody striking a different personal balance between them).

You might have reason to think Excoffon was lying; I instead suspect -that's all- that we are still missing a piece of the puzzle (which might simply involve a deficiency among Olive's competitors rather than an exceptional technology at Olive). The most practical way to reveal this potentially missing piece is what I've been doing.

The width of the smallest router used is the tool's limit, but not strictly the limit of the process.

Indeed, and that's something I've referred to (for example via that Tetterode photo) a few times here. However once people have started paddling down the pantograph river they have often given up on using their oars for small course corrections and simply gone with the flow, even when they could tell the output was being visibly degraded. So you could call it the "spiritual limit" of the process; and that's where the minimum -viable- size of the pantograph's cutter stands up from the crowd of other factors (when it comes to nailing down Joep's "(lack of) sharpness of the casting").

As for Calypso being a "we're back", I think by that time: the French had already rebuilt their confidence, and developed their -sometimes grating- "we don't need to prove anything to other people, they need to prove it to us" attitude; Mistral -and other designs- had already done all the necessary proving, with foreign font houses eagerly licensing it.


hrant's picture

I know this is pretty crude stuff but: in that photo the white parts of the hatching have a thickness of about 3-4 mils; the black parts are about 1-2 mils (with a mil being 1/1000 inches). The former would be the relevant one if the pantograph was used on the punch (a positive).

To rephrase what I wrote in my response to John: coming up with such numbers doesn't indicate the theoretical limits of a punchcutter, but hopefully it does help reveal some sort of practical limit.


Bert Vanderveen's picture

My guess is that the 'handy-est' way to produce something like this would be a combination of photographic etching and subsequent routing (pantographic, or whatever). Since no one has posited this method yet, I would like to put it up. (This method would account for the so called impossible inner corners.)

BTW This theory is based on a project I did in 1976 with the help of a local lithographer, involving screened material.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, thanks for the translation. But it seems to me that Excoffon's comment does not answer any of my queries, because it does not indicate a specific mechanical advantage, or a unique process, but only that 'at that time only the Olive foundry had the technical means necessary to create such a typeface'. That could mean almost anything, even a comment on the technical experience and skill of Fonderie Olive's technical staff vs that of their competitors. And how did Excoffon know this? Had he shopped the design around other foundries? Had he been told 'Oh, that's too difficult for us'?

John Hudson's picture

Bert, I was wondering about chemical etching technologies, and wondering if they'd ever been used in the production of type. It seems to me unlikely because of the issue of depth, but I was considering etching of patterns or matrices, and perhaps you are thinking of punch production?

polkawithfontana's picture

Today I received the Letraset sheet with 72 pt Calypso lettering. Brilliant! I have to thank graphic designer Thomas Fischer-Stumm from Germany who send it to me for free out of a stack of 500+ Letraset sheets with different typefaces he was selling through Ebay. I have to thank him to search through that huge amount of sheets and finding this Calypso sheet. I even found my Mecanorma rub down tool I had preserved for so many years. But I really doubt if I am gonna use it or keep the sheet as it is ...

hrant's picture

how did Excoffon know this?

I'm guessing the French foundry scene was a small world. Plus he was good at "espionage" - here's another passage from Rault: "We learned that the Deberny & Peignot foundry was preparing a new advertising typeface by Jacno. An article with a photo showing Jacno drawing his alphabet had appeared in a trade magazine. I’m going to be honest: I carried out industrial spying – I took my magnifying glass and examined that photo as carefully as possible. The print quality wasn’t very good; nonetheless I formed an opinion on the alphabet style." But I certainly agree that it's not all clear enough.

Joep: Nice!


Té Rowan's picture

So posting the link was a stupid idea. Won't be my last stupid idea, I'm afraid.

dberlow's picture

Hrant: “Mistral -and other designs- had already done all the necessary proving”

Apparently not. The claims that were made about this font, were not made about those fonts. The previous fonts had been design problems, while Calypso was a production issue from the sketches to the printed page, you see. And, as we've covered, no other use, patenting, sale or further claims were made about any technology or process or any other use on any other font... ever.

“So you could call it the "spiritual limit" of the process…”

But the truth is that the limit was a real value to be minded in the design process, followed through whatever planned stages were involved in production to achieve the proper result in a product that still needed great care to use.

"...he was good at "espionage"

lol... loaded with a published article and a magnifying glass, he decided which founder to work with? This guy would be the master spy of the world with the web and zoom at his fingertips.

dezcom's picture

Té, every good idea is preceded by 10 stupid ideas. :-)

hrant's picture

The claims that were made about this font, were not made about those fonts.

Good point.

However your "proving themselves" speculation remains quite incongruous, at least when it comes to doing so on a national level; what does make sense is that Olive wanted to market its superiority to D&P (so on a local level, which does not jive with what you opined).

the limit was a real value to be minded in the design process

Sure, on a theoretical level. On a "spiritual" (hence eventually practical) level, once the pantograph is saving you effort, it quickly starts seeming inefficient to combat what the pantograph "wants". This is something the Bentons quickly discovered: as much as they tried to educate the customers of their systems that having a large number of masters (each for a narrow size range) was important for quality, their customers preferred to save as much time/money as possible; after all, readers weren't complaining... Eventually even ATF itself gave in to that.

loaded with a published article and a magnifying glass, he decided which founder to work with?

That was about Banco. And he was already an Olive employee (in fact one with a controlling interest). Plus AFAIK he never worked with any other foundry (except for his -aborted- final effort).

My point was that Excoffon was not a hermetic, insular designer; in fact he was highly active on all fronts of French type and graphic design. So John's "How did he know?" seems to have a highly probable answer: he was paying attention. This BTW is something Rault's book does better than the one by Chamaret/Gineste/Morlighem (which is however a fabulous effort): it conveys superbly what made Excoffon tick (allowing one to make better speculations).

BTW it seems that your goal has become to aggressively doubt every single thing I say. OK, let's try this one: Font Bureau makes some great newspaper fonts.


polkawithfontana's picture

Another detailed picture to tribute to the pantograph question. I don't think the Calypso was a big problem compared to the Haas Gutenberglied and even to the Sabon 10 pt 'g'. Again with the half mm Mackie M typometer below.
I flipped the image so it can be read by non-metal typesetters ;-)

dezcom's picture

Great image, Joep!

eliason's picture

It seems to me unlikely because of the issue of depth, but I was considering etching of patterns or matrices, and perhaps you are thinking of punch production?

Wouldn't a punch need to be still higher relief than a matrix? Or do I misunderstand what you mean by "the issue of depth"?

John Hudson's picture

A punch needs to be high relief, but the part that needs to be cleanest and sharpest is at the surface, rather than in the recessed area.

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