Identifying Type

50+ faces of type were donated to our letterpress program. I’m in the process of sorting, cleaning and distributing these faces. Most of the typecases have rotted to dust (or worse) and most labels are missing or illegible.

I’ve a specimen books, but I’m finding that they are most effective at telling me what a specific face isn’t.

Is there a definitive reference for identifying typefaces?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


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I think most will agree that McGrew’s “American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century” is an outstanding source.

Have you tried Identifont ( The web site asks a series of questions about the type face - like does the uppercase J descend below the baseline, do the characters have serifs, are they bracketed, what shape does the tail of the uppercase Q have - and then it makes suggestions about what the face might be. A copy of McGrew’s is still handy to double check. I’ve found it to work well