Identifying Type

I recently aquired a Hamilton type cabinet with 25 type cases full of fonts. The cabinet contains three different case layouts. There was no identification of the fonts with the cases. In some of the cases they doubled up fonts where it looks like it is the same font but different sizes, is this common practice? I am emptying each case and putting the type into a galley and cleaning and repairing each case as I go. Can someone tell me the best way to get help identifying the fonts. If I print a specimen of each font do I need to include every character? Is there any type of markings that I could look for on the type?

Thanks, Robert

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Hi Robert,

Before you post specimens to the site here for help, look at the lower case m or capital H on each set of type. If there is a number on the face (very small usually, use a loupe) then the type is probably ATF and the number can be correlated to a face name. Lists exist on the net of American Type Foundry pattern numbers. These only occur on certain faces and only on the m and H characters.

After that, yes, you need to lock up A-Z and a-z +numerals/figs and print a proof to post. Some faces are quite similar with only a few characters differing…

If type identification is a deeper interest, buy the Mac McGrew book on American Type Faces from Oak Knoll and experiment with comparing your proofs to the faces in the books. Human’s do search by exclusion, (error reduction) eliminating wrong choices until only the right choice remains. (that is a semester of human psychology and cognitive science in a single sentence…) Rapid disqualifiers I use to move from one face to the next are the lower case e, a, y, and g, the upper case M, W, U, T, and Q.

Lower case e because it varies between periods, the bar is slanted in venetian origins like Kennerley and Cloister, the bar is high in old styles like Garamond, the bar is centered with wide counters on readability faces like Century Schoolbook, etc… Length of descenders on y and g help you determine some faces (shortened descenders on caslon 540 and others) and the g has differing ears depending on face. Cap M, depends on serifs and whether the middle dips clear to the line, W on the center serifs, T on the visible serifs, U on the foot or absence thereof, etc… I’m sure others use different characters as well.