Friday, February 22, 2013

Kittypot Revivals

by guest blogger Bob Mullen
I am an enthusiast of old type. I mean really old and cool type. Not the 1950s Brush or the 1930s Kabel or the 1900s Cheltenham, but the good stuff—grand old Victorian curiosities, sexy Art Nouveau and stylish Art Deco faces. My wife Carole and I have collected quite a few of these typefaces and inherited others from her father, Gary Hantke. They’re not easy to find, and usually expensive these days. But there is one way to get them at reasonable cost and without the wear and broken serifs that are often found on the genuine antique. These are the revivals that are being offered by a number of the twenty-first century letter founders of metal type: Skyline, Monumental, Dale Guild, Hill and Dale, etc.
Probably the first of the revivalists was a retired ATF employee of many years named Steve Watts, who had been in charge of type sales and design. When Watts worked for ATF, he became well acquainted with the vast holdings within their matrix vaults. About 1957 he decided there were certain faces he wanted for his home shop, so he arranged to have special castings of antique faces made from the original matrices at ATF. The company required a minimum order, so in order to get what he wanted, he began offering special subscription castings through his large network of printer friends. Though the demand was not big enough for ATF to go into regular production of these fonts, there was enough demand so Watts could get back his investment. He called them his Kittypot Revivals.
My father-in-law Gary Hantke corresponded with Watts for several years, and we have in our possession many of the cards and fliers offering kittypot revivals in addition to some of the type.
The first offering was in 1957, 24 point Cincinnati Initials, an elaborate Victorian initial that had been made by the Cincinnati Type Foundry in the 1880s. Watts offered a 3A font, 58 characters, for $4.40, postpaid. Yeah, postpaid! His second casting was 18 point Original Old Style Italic, an italic face with an oversized a, e, and o that was first shown by Farmer, Little & Co. of New York in 1858. Price: 6A 12a font $9.60; 9A 24a font, $16.80; 18A 120a font, $49.50, all postpaid. At the APA auction last year, not knowing what we were getting, Carol and I bought a barely used large font of Original Old Style Italic for less than the original price. After some typographic sleuthing, we were thrilled to discover what we had.
Altogether Steve Watts offered at least eleven Kittypot Revivals between 1957 and about 1961. They were (as best as we can figure):
 1. 24 pt. Cincinnati Initials, circa 1880
2. 18 pt. Original Old Style Italic, 1858
3. 11 on 12 pt. body Wayside Roman, circa 1906 (ATF)
4. 18 pt. Pekin, circa 1888 (BB&amp S)
5. 24 pt. 2-color Cincinnati Initials, circa 1880
6. 18 pt. Trocadero (Great Primer Ornamented No. 3). Circa 1850 (Dickinson)
7. 48 pt. Wedgewood Cameo Ornaments, 20th century
8. 18 pt. Great Primer No. 8 (also called Cicero, Gentry), circa 1860 (English)
9. 18 pt. Pacific, circa 1890 (Dickinson)
10. 12 pt. Oxford Roman and Italic, Circa 1822 (Binny & Ronaldson)
11.. 48 pt. Munder-Hoyle Corners & Ornaments, 20th century
In his June 1959 flier, Watts showed all of his first six Kittypot Revivals for sale, and listed everyone who had ordered from him, three pages of names from 30 states, including some very well-known names in letterpress.
In addition to the eleven Kittypot Revivals shown above, Watts attempted to have 18 pt. Tuscan Floral cast by ATF for his seventh offering, but the company said the matrices were too damaged for them to work with without re-making them. That would have made a price people in 1959 wouldn’t want to pay, $20.00 per font!
By the early 1960s, Steve Watts’ health was failing, and he was forced to slow down with his printing and his revival castings. He died in 1966 with more projects on his plate, but they were, unfortunately, projects he was never able to complete. Other people followed with revivals: Andy Dunker, Charles Broad and Phoenix/LA type Foundry and more. For them all, we who have a fascination with old typefaces owe a great debt of gratitude. Thank you, Steve Watts.

1 comment:

  1. Is the Original Old Style something you can see in the images you have displayed here? I'd love to see the find that you and Carole discovered! Great post. I'm sure if I was a letterpress person, I'd be into the old stuff too!