1923 American Type Founders Book - FOUND!

annedesigns's picture

Hello, All!

I was at a fantastic antiquey-junky-funky place and found a 1923 ATF Book of Type Styles from 1923, among the piles of old letterpress letters I was scooping up.

The dealer wanted $325, but I got him to hold it for me for $250.

I'm a graphic designer that adores type - but I don't know a lot about how much something like this is even worth. I did some Typophile searches, figuring this question has probably come up before... I found a post saying you can usually buy these for $120-$150. The quality of the book is fair - has the crusty, musty smell and look of a worn, old treasure. I snapped a few pics that are with this post.

So, my question is - should I just be happy I stumbled upon one of these and buy it asap? Or try to bargain this guy down further? Thanks in advance for any advice, typophiles!


Something about this book jogged my memory. I went home to my beloved dorky design binders and found an article I'd pulled out of Print "If I had $9,000..." The article was a collection of things a designer might buy if they just happened to have a suitcase of money under the bed. One of the items was this book! Ha!

afonseca1974's picture


well...dont know much about "commercial value" but I would love to put my hand on one...
Can you post some pages with Typefaces? I just love that "old flavour"...


afonseca1974's picture

Don't know if you already saw this, but there is some info about your copy [Bad link]!


blank's picture

Prices on old specimen books went up after Helvetica (the film) found an audience, but it’s mostly asshole booksellers who will leave the books on a shelf for years in hopes that someone bites at a high price. They can sometimes be found in the hands of better businesses cheap, tho, and right now there are two copies on Amazon for just under $80.

Stefan H's picture


It's a lovely speciemen book indeed, and of course one of the standard books for a serious type designer or a graphic designer with a great deal of interest for typography. Usually the "mid-20ies" editions are the best from most type foundries. Still judging from the pictures it seems to be pretty warn and jagged. I wouldn't pay more that $100 or so for this particular piece. E-bay often have this book in mint condition.

Stefan H's picture

Just had aquick look at E-bay and they actually have two up for auction right now, closing soon.

Good luck!

AGL's picture

Be happy! That is a nice find. The prices of these books went way up because people are talking about them here :)
You buck was ex-trimly well spent.

annedesigns's picture

Typophiles never disappoint!
Thanks, everyone, for such quick and thorough responses.

Judging by a couple of the responses, I probably didn't make myself super-clear... I haven't bought the book - yet. I was looking for the sage advice of all the typophiles out there to be better armed with info on what I should (and shouldn't) be spending for this particular copy. I'll go back to the dealer and see what kind of deal we can strike. I'd like to try, anyway - as I could use the practice negotiating. I'm terrible at negotiating, I usually just pay what they're asking.

If I scoop it up, I'll be sure to post pictures!

Thanks again, everyone!

Sharon Van Lieu's picture

I think you should wait and find a better copy. That one looks pretty sad and I just hate a strong musty smell. If it is mildew, it can spread to your other books.


bieler's picture

I would suggest you hold off on this purchase. These can be picked up quite cheaply on eBay if you are willing to wait. I'd say that if you bid $120 for one of these on eBay you will win and for a lot less.

These were published in a very massive edition back in 1923. Theo Rehak, in his book on ATF, mentions how foundry workers, a half century or more later, were using mint copies for firewood at one point.


ben_archer's picture

Hi Anne.

The advice to go bidding on ebay is really valid. This copy you're looking at in the antiquey-junky-funky place is overpriced by about 200%.

I say this because I asked my local bookseller (in New Zealand) to acquire me one a couple of years ago – and including the shipping & insurance, it still came in at less than half the price of this one you're getting held at $250. I know I paid over the odds, but my copy is in better condition.

The book itself states that the 1923 edition was 60,000 copies. They were passed out to ATF resellers worldwide. Here's a couple of pages with that 'old flavour'...

Stefan H's picture

E-bay is mostly a very good place to find book within the typographic area. I boucght my excellent copy for not more than $100.

And the smell issue could turn out hard to overcome. Apart from e-bay, Adebooks (www.adebooks.com) are sometimes a nice option.


Stefan H's picture

Sorry about the false link. It shoud be ABEBOOKS... www.abebooks.com/

Thomas Phinney's picture

I've bought two copies of this book, and the most recent for well under $100 on eBay. I certainly would not pay anything over $120 for this book, and I'd only go over $100 for one in really wonderful condition.


metalfoot's picture

To hook onto this inquiry, is the 1927 ATF supplement of Goudy faces a worthwhile purchase?

malcolm's picture

This is a nice book if it is in one piece still. Check to see if any ofthe pages have been removed or if someone has been at the pages with a scalpel. If its all there then $150 is a fair price, if it been hacked about then don't pay over $100.

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