More on the National Board on Printing Type Faces

Among the material in the George Macy Papers at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University are three documents from the National Board on Printing Type Faces.

The first document is a second edition of  “National Board on Printing Type Faces: Its Organization and Work” dated 1935. Although the Board had failed in 1930 in its original attempt to reign in the proliferation of new typefaces, it apparently did not dissolve but continued on with an altered mission. No longer was it interested in the quantity of typefaces being produced: “The Board is not particularly concerned with the economic problem involved for the advertising typographers in stocking too many new types. This, it is felt, is the problem of the typographers themselves and in point of fact, new faces are not issued in such profusion as formerly.” p. 5

It also had partially abandoned its idea of controlling the quality of typefaces available. Its original ratings of Recommended, Limited Use and Bad had been pared back to Recommended on the grounds that the original plan was both impractical and unfair. The brochure included an updated list of the typefaces it recommended, grouped into several oddly named categories. Here they are:

Round Serif Group—Caslon, Bookman, Century, Garamond/Garamont, Lutetia, Poliphilus and Blado, Goudy Old Style, Italian Old Style, Kennerley, Les Cochin, Nicholas Cochin, Baskerville, Forum Titling, Eve, Estienne, Cloister Old Style, Deepdene, Weiss Initials no. I, and Weiss Antiqua. [Granjon by George W. Jones is missing as are Centaur, Bembo and Perpetua from Monotype.]

Flat Serif Group—Bodoni, Scotch Roman, Bernhard, Goudy Modern and Open, Goudy Newstyle, Narcissus, Astree, Bodoni Open, Bulmer, Girder, Stymie, Corvinus, and Egmont.

Sans Serif Group—Futura, Kabel, Bernhard Gothic, Goudy Gothic, Cooper Bold [huh?], Regular Gothic, Stellar, Neuland, Orplid, and Umbra. [Notably, Metro by W.A. Dwiggins is missing.]

The Board also stated its position on typeface piracy: “The designer of a typeface, it is believed, is entitled to every possible protection for his creative talents.” p. 8 It recommended legislation, but since that was not likely to happen soon, it suggested that the foundries and composing machine companies sign an anti-piracy agreement that would be overseen by the AIGA. Cross-licensing of designs was urged.

In April 1935 the Board met and agreed to organize a type design competition. The other two documents in the George Macy Papers pertain to this event. One is a call for entries titled “A Competition in Designs for American Type Faces” with a list of the rules for submission. No judges were listed, but prizes were offered for the first and second best “general use” typefaces ($300 and $150 respectively) and for the best book and advertising faces ($100 each). The Board encouraged the submission of “original and experimental ideas”!

The winners of the competition were announced on November 1st and an exhibition held for two weeks that month at the Architectural League Gallery in midtown New York. The entire event was commemorated in a booklet entitled, “Exhibition of Designs Selected from the Competition for American Type Faces Held by the National Board on Printing Type Faces, Shown Under the Auspices of the Advertising Typographers of America”. The competition attracted 116 entries with many individuals submitting multiple designs. Among those who then or later became known in the worlds of lettering and type design were Arnold Bank, Raymond Ballinger, Alfred Bosco, William Bostick, Hollis Holland, Oscar Ogg, Rand Holub, James Innes, Frank Bartuska, Raymond Lufkin, William Metz, Frederic Nelson Phillips and George Trenholm. The latter, a well known Boston letterer who went on to design typefaces for Intertype, was the winner of the book face category. The winner in the general use category was Sydney Bagshaw, an illustrator who had trained under Fred G. Cooper, with a stressed sans serif. The runner-up was Benjamin Lewis with another stressed sans serif. Melchior Mittl, another illustrator, won the advertising typeface category. (Five women are listed among the entrants, though none of their names are familiar: Viola Martin, Kate Robotham, Ilyana Singer, Cherolyn Stevenson and Phyllis Wild.)

Sydney Bagshaw—First prize winner, general use category.

Benjamin Lewis—Second prize winner, general use category.

Melchior Mittl—winner, advertising category

George Trenholm—winner, book category.

None of these designs, as far as I am aware, were ever made into typefaces.

The Board continued in existence after the type design competition. The Raymond Franklin DaBoll Papers at the Newberry Library contain some correspondence between DaBoll and E.M. Diamant from 1949 to 1953 about its activities, none of which were of any consequence. Exactly when the Board shut down I do not know.