Newbie Question

anonymous's picture


I just got the 1923 ATF Specimen book and was wondering what was the best way to scan these fonts and capitals so I can use them like typical postscript fonts.

Sorry for such a naive question, which I'm sure has been discussed before, but I'm new at this.

Any help from the experts here would be greatly appreciated.

hrant's picture

Isn't the copyright on those expired? If not, who owns them now?

But in any case, in a revival credit should be formally and publicly given to the original. The thing is, there's no reason to assume Rocky wouldn't give credit, except of course if you're a gestapo who sees people as criminals unless proven otherwise in a US (or at least US-puppet) court of law.


Miss Tiffany's picture

kinda on-topic, but more off-topic ... Has anyone
seen the specimen (any specimen) book for Fonderie Olive or is it Peignot or both. Suddenly I have forgotten. And another question ... Information about Maximilian Vox and Roger Excoffon.

hrant's picture
BTW, Peignot has a depth few people acknowledge.

Vox: Haven't read much - try JFP's site.

Excoffon: Considering that he had a surprisingly analytical approach to type design (even though he was mostly a display boy), not to mention his flamboyant lifestyle, it's surprising there isn't more about him. One good place is S Carter's incomparable "20th Century Type Designers".


hrant's picture

BTW, I forgot to tell this story:

Excoffon worked for Fondrie Olive, the only main French rival of Deberny & Peignot. Cassandre was finishing his Peignot for D&P when Excoffon came to visit. Upon seeing Cassandre's drawings, Excoffon quickly took the first train back home and drew an imitation. And it was released *before* Peignot. Excoffon's imitation didn't adopt Cassandre's reformist efforts, however, so it actually sold better too...

BTW, this incident was actually one of the main catalysts for the foundation of ATypI.


Miss Tiffany's picture

As told to me by Gerard Unger at Reading; or so I remember it this way: And sadly, the letter of refusal for distributing Peignot (before it was accepted elsewhere) was in Cassandre's hand when he was found dead after committing suicide.

hrant's picture

Are you sure it was Peignot's refusal that triggered the suicide? I think D&P was already committed to Peignot, and it was a later design of his (IIRC something more Greek-lapidary, possibly his "Metop"?) that was rejected by an unnamed German font house that did it.

Anyway, Cassandre wasn't so distressed over just a simple case of font licensing. He was beside himself with grief because nobody took his alphabet reform efforts to heart, even taking his work, stripping out the reform, and selling it like hotcakes. (BTW, in my case I'm fortunate to be able to squarely blame you guys for being so tentative... :-)


kentlew's picture

Personal-use and possession laws vary from state to . . . Oh, wait a minute, we're talking about fonts here. Scratch that.

Seriously though, Hrant is right about any copyright expiring. Setting aside the whole issue of whether typefaces are covered under U.S. law, the longest term of protection offered under U.S. copyright is 75 years. So anything older is in the public domain. Less than 75 years and you'll have to research.

I would not consider digitizing images from the 1923 ATF book for personal use as pirating -- especially a design which is not currently available in any other way.

If you want to turn your scans into a useable font, then there's always Streamline and Fontographer. But, if you're thinking of trying to set a decent paragraph of text, then you're in for a bit of work to get the font really up to snuff. You won't get professional outlines from a tracing program. You won't get good spacing from an auto routine.

On the other hand, if you just want to set a headline, then skip the font. Set your letters manually.

-- Kent.

plainclothes's picture

sorry for upsetting everyone with my comments! it was kind of a dry joke (ok, very dry!). i was picturing this poor fellow sitting there, scanning old pages, optimising the scans, and trying to use the result with apparently no knowledge of a real font production app.

Best of luck, Rocky! and, really, sorry for the misunderstanding.

johnbutler's picture

There are a number of reputable foundries around today who sell tons of ATF revivals. ITC revived Blair, Font Bureau has a number of ATF-derived designs, and what have you.

Reviving one for your own personal use is kosher inside the US. Selling it can be harder depending on the design. Proceed with caution.

As for the technical question, which was (I believe) the original question, buy ScanFont fron FontLab. I digitized a whole character set (in my case J.M. Fleischmann's Groote Canon Duits from 1748) inside of a weekend. It's amazingly intelligent. And that one I did with the three-day demo version, which led me to then purchase the full version. Worth every penny! I use it in conjunction with FontLab, but you can also use it with the cheaper TypeTool.

andrea's picture

sorry to dredge up this old digitization issue but I need your vast expertise on a couple of things.

you find an older piece of type on a vintage sign, piece of ephemera, old handwritten document... It does or does not have a complete set of letters. (I'm specifically *not* talking about specimen books where the letterforms were designed for printing, etc.)

is there a set period of time before letterforms become public domain?

If it's an old company logo, does the company have to be out of business?

what if the handwriting is a public figure and part of their "trademark", like John Hancock sort of thing?

or what if it's an image like P22 has Maxfield Parrish, Van Gogh, William Morris ornaments? Do you have to get permission from estates, museums?

thanks for any assistance! I've been wondering about this stuff for quite some time.

anonymous's picture


on Excoffon see this nice article by John Dreyfus.


anonymous's picture

I wasn't aware that appropriating images for personal use from a 1923 book produced by a company that's been out of business for decades would be considered 'pirating'...

Besides, I wouldn't 'pirate' these if I could find somebody selling them...does anybody offer Bodini Shaded Initials, for example?

Pirate Rocky

Joe Pemberton's picture

Kent's pragmatic suggestion is a good one.

If you're just setting a headline your
best bet is to trace it by hand (scan it in, then
draw over it in Illustrator/Freehand). Autotrace
apps are only good for a general start, but by
the time you clean up the points, you could've
done it right from scratch.

Good luck. I'd love to see the final result.

anonymous's picture

Thanks to everyone for the helpful advice.

I'll try to attach a copy of a '23 Bodini Shaded Initial. It looks OK on screen but great at 1200 dpi. Does anyone know if this is offered by anybody?

Bodini Shaded B.jpg

plainclothes's picture

kind of a unique approach to pirating fonts -- a lot more work than the old fashioned way!

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