Is this a “master” typeface?

A friend of mine has given me half a dozen wooden boxes that she salvaged from the dump in the hours after the Gerald Giampa auction here in Prince Edward Island in 2002.

Can someone help me identify what these boxes are? As each box contains only one example of each letter and mark, I’m assuming they’re some sort of “master” for producing type – is this correct?

image: Wooden box.

Wooden box.

image: Close-up of box contents.

Close-up of box contents.

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What is the material of the letters? Does the other end show any sign of hammering on them? They could be steel stamps for stamping information on metal or into wood, used as hammered punches. They do not look like punches for mats, and the letters look somewhat rounded as though they had been hammered into something. Unless the face of the letter is crisp and sharp they would not be useful for producing type.


If they were punches, wouldn’t the characters be right-reading?


For typographic punches, no (the punch represents the finished cast letter), but to punch or stamp the letters and numbers into a surface they would also be wrong-reading, like type. They could also be masters for growing mats by electroplating, but they don’t look in good enough condition for that.

These are Monotype punches. What do the other ones look like? Are the boxes labeled?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

I’m attaching some additional photos, showing both an example of the contents of the boxes, and how they are labeled.

image: Box Labels

Box Labels

image: Box Labels

Box Labels

image: Box Labels

Box Labels

image: Box Labels

Box Labels

image: What's in the boxes...

What's in the boxes...

Perhaps this sheds some light:

The “tidal wave” referenced in the article was more like “serious coastal flooding” and more details can be found here:

When Giampa decided to leave Prince Edward Island an auction was held ( and those things that didn’t sell – including the boxes referenced here – were hauled off to the dump where an enterprising designer rescued them.

The punch is wrong-reading so that the matrix is right-reading.

Then the type will be cast wrong-reading so the print is right-reading.


Those are fascinating remains of the original Monotype company, maybe from as far back as 1900. They were used for punching composition matrices in a machine, no hammer was required. If someone had the Monotype composition matrices you would see that they fit right in. The punches you have are 0.2” x 0.2” in size, I am attaching a picture of a similar punch for a larger size, 0.4” x 0.4”, in a little better condition.

Did anything else from Monotype survive?

Did the composition matrix-making machines make it?

Thank you for the post!


image: 0.4 x 0.4 punch.JPG

0.4 x 0.4 punch.JPG

And another view….

image: Punch2.JPG