ATF Century Catalogue

raph's picture

Hi all,

I'm trying to learn font design by closely studying the works of the masters. To that end, I've traced Century Catalogue from the ATF library. This version is scaled for 18pt size; I'm probably going to use this as a testbed font for my wacky ideas about how to do optical scaling.

I believe this is a fairly faithful rendering of the original ATF metal font. Of course, that means there are a bunch of things I would do differently - lengthen the top of the f, make the descenders a little longer (with, perhaps, some strengthening of the lower bowl of the g), and probably making the serifs on the u more "modern".

I can imagine using this font to do math books; it feels like a cleaner cousin of Monotype Old Style No. 2 that was used by, among others, Letterproef Van de Garde to do, in my opinion, some of the finest math typesetting in print.

Criticism is welcome.

First prototype, ATF Century Catalogue revival

hrant's picture

I can't tell how close to the original this is, since I'm not too familiar with the original (and the '23 ATF specimen I used to have is back at UCLA).

Revivals: I rarely like them, but if you're going to do this I think your idea to try to improve it will save it from banality. On the other hand, it takes an experienced hand to improve on such a good design, so stay on your toes - and don't do anything drastic! :-)

Besides the "f" I can't see any lc glyph that really needs help. And I wouldn't lengthen the descenders (at least not for the text sizes), because you'd be wasting setting economy with little gain in return. A good way to determine vertical proportions is this: the "g" should look slightly cramped*. The biggest thing I might change would be making the caps smaller. And what about the numerals? I might make them hybrids.

* Which actually ties in to the "ugliness" I was talking about elsewhere.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

McGrew's American Metal Typefaces explains that Century Catalogue is Century Old Style with taller ascenders. --The descenders look longer also. MF Benton was such a great craftsman, that I suspect trying to change it will be a lesson in how smart his decisions were. Font Bureau has successfully revived and expanded a lot of Benton stuff, with great craftsmanship, so be sure to study what they have done. You've chosen a terrific face to work on.

raph's picture

Thanks for the comments and encouragement.

If you look closely, you'll see that, while Century Catalogue is clearly based on Century Oldstyle, there are more differences than the length of ascenders and descenders (yes; Oldstyle has short descenders to the point of stubbiness). Overall, it is both lighter and has increased contrast between thick and thin strokes. Individual glyphs have been updated thus:

lower bowl of g is more like the classical, calligraphic design than the somewhat "Hershey's Kiss" shape in Oldstyle

s and z serifs are more vertical

U and H are wider

C stress is more vertical

design of Q is Baskervillian, Oldstyle's is same as Century Expanded

$ has two vertical strokes

The italic tells an entirely different story than the roman, however; it's more clearly based on Baskerville Italic than Century Oldstyle Italic. Overall, the main differences are that Century Catalogue Italic is expanded a fair amount, and the descenders have been shortened. Other than that, there are very few differences except that the exaggerated slant of A V and W has been removed.

Overall, I really like the effect of all the differences in the Roman; it seems to combine the comfort of Century Oldstyle with the more refined atmosphere of fine printing in the style of Baskerville.

By the way, I've placed 200dpi scans of Century Oldstyle (and a number of other pages of the 1923 ATF catalouge) online here: http://levien.com/type/atf_1923/

I can make high quality 2400 dpi scans available to anyone interested; the roughly 30M per page filesize makes me reluctant to just throw them up on the server.

hrant's picture

Ralph, if you could make me a 2400 dpi scan of the Garamond (only the stuff that's 14 point and below) from the '23 that would be really nice of you.

BTW, the JPEG artefacting on those 200dpi scans is pretty major... Here's a quick routine I've come up with to make type specimen scanning both accurate and lean. You can find it here:
http://www.typophile.com/forums/messages/29/13499.html
(Monday, August 11, 2003 - 1:04 pm)

hhp

hrant's picture

Ralph, I just bought this:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=6916754043
(And I checked in advance: it is the ATF.)

I could loan it to you if you like.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, spooky: That was apparently the 3rd in a series, and the 2nd one was about... ATF Bodoni! The 2nd one is available through Oak Knoll, but it's $45. Wait... Bookfinder is showing a few copies, for between $29 and $49.

hhp

raph's picture

Uh oh, please don't get me started buying these things right now. I have enough pressures on my funds as it is!

But for those who do feel like spending money, this item would seem to be well considered:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3741236751

hrant's picture

So I just got that Garamond booklet - it's pretty nice. It actually contains great samples of both the ATF and the Monotype. I presume that the Bodoni one does the same thing.

hhp

raph's picture

I've been working on this pretty steadily, improving what I've got and adding more glyphs. You can see a snapshot below:

Century Catalogue

I've also made the FontForge source for this font, as well as my other fonts-in-progress, on my web page: levien.com/type/myfonts/.

William Berkson's picture

Compared to the sample in McGrew this is lighter and the spacing is different.

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