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20th Anniversary of ConnectNY - Featured Collections

Highlighting a different institutional member’s virtual special collections exhibition, or a selection of digital collection resources, each month.

Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT

19th and Early 20th-Century Type Specimens: A Digital Collection

Wood type, manufactured by Wm. H. Page & Co. Greenville, Conn.: Wm. H. Page & Co., 1873 approximate.

Type specimens, or the advertising catalogs published by printing type founders to show their designs, are key primary sources in facilitating the study of typefaces. The study of typefaces is integral to scholarship on the history of the book. From its popularization in 15th-century Germany, the use of metal type for letterpress printing paved the way for five centuries of print culture on an international scale. The identification of typefaces by foundry, name, and size can unlock significant information about book publishers and edition variants; it can assist in identifying counterfeits; and enhance understanding of changing reading and design customs through history. 
In 2019, RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection received 300 rare 19th-century and early-20th American type specimens and printers’ manuals from the collection of the esteemed printer and historian Stephen O. Saxe (1930–2019) from White Plains, New York. Saxe and his generation of printing historians were generous with their knowledge and made great efforts to share information, including circulating photocopies of scarce type specimens. In honor of this generosity of spirit, the Cary Collection first cataloged Saxe’s printed collection, thanks to funding from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. We are now digitizing the type specimens and making them publicly accessible where they can be studied by historians and type enthusiasts alike. 


Image: Wood type, manufactured by Wm. H. Page & Co. Greenville, Conn.: Wm. H. Page & Co., 1873 approximate.


Contact Us to Learn More

Dr. Steven K. Galbraith, Curator
RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection
90 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623