Digitizing metal type?

Doc Friendly's picture

I have a couple cases of old metal type, usually only in one size, that I rarely use having moved to digital letterpress for its flexibility.

I was wondering if there was any problem with digitizing what type I have for personal use (that is to say I wouldn't be selling it).
My gut tells me there isn't a problem, but in these sort of cases I'm almost always wrong.



blank's picture

I really don’t see any ethical issues as long as you aren’t digitizing faces that are still copyrighted and on the market (Univers, Palatino, etc) and selling them.

piccic's picture

If you are doing the work, with a specific intent, on a metal face which is not available in digital format, and for your own use, I can't see problems…
What is "digital letterpress"? I'm very curious…

paul d hunt's picture

trust your gut

terryw's picture

most metal faces have been digitized by now. You can probably find them available for sale at various digital foundries.

piccic's picture

most metal faces have been digitized by now.

There are so little metal faces properly recast in digital form, that I would definitely not say such a thing lightheartedly… :=)

Doc Friendly's picture

@piccic The term is a bit of a misnomer, as all the typesetting (what really makes letterpress) is done in the program of choice, using whatever digital typefaces are on hand. Graphics can be added, the whole thing is exported to .eps or .pdf and made into photopolymer plates which are then mounted on a type high base and printed using old presses that would otherwise go unused.

My thinking was: since I own these typefaces, for example News Gothic in 10pts, in their original castings, which all pre-date microcircuitry, I should have some right to digitize it myself provided I don't try to rebrand or sell it. Otherwise I'm just stuck with 15lbs of News Gothic in 10pts.

blank's picture

Even if the typeface designs were subject to US copyright law most weights of News Gothic would already have been in the public domain for decades. And given the state of the News Gothic market, it seems that the trademarks are a non-issue as well.

jabez's picture

Otherwise I’m just stuck with 15lbs of News Gothic in 10pts.

What a dream. I believe I'm not the only one who imagines himself playing 'font Lego' whenever metal fonts are referred to... :)

paragraph's picture

Reverse lego in my high school work experience: first week they let us play with the ruler and display (like 36–48 pt) hand type, then ink it and proof it. That was fantastic fun. Next week, they brought us a book page each, and untied the string holding the thing together: 2000-odd small pieces of metal, to be sorted into their little compartments in the cases. Thanks gods for the computer!
But I digress, oops.

bieler's picture

Typefaces in the US can not be copyrighted, not since the 19th century. You can digitize whatever US metal typefaces you like. Haven't all the major and minor digital type foundries? Only thing you have to worry about is registration or trademark licenses that may still be valid. And most of those protect stolen property. Nice industry.


piccic's picture

Besides, you could end up with a more interesting digital version than the ones around, like what Metallophile by Mark Simonson does to (digital versions of) Spartan.

I'm not saying that irregularity should be the norm, but often digital versions totally lack the warm appearance and consistency of metal ones, especially at small sizes, but this largely depends on the design itself.

Personally I am not at all satisifed by all current Gill Sans versions on the market: too little spaced, mostly without any optical size versions, disregarding its original conception.
Even the Monotype "Pro" version of which I licensed a weight is so tightly spaced you should manually space it to set small point sizes.

phrostbyte64's picture

Sounds like a dream come true. Have fun.


...from the Fontry

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