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Will Carter

Born near London in 1912, d. 2001. His typefaces:

  • Klang (1955). This typeface at Lanston Monotype was bought by Stephenson Blake from Monotype.
  • Dartmouth (1961), Dartmouth Titling (for Letraset). Mac McGrew on Dartmouth: Dartmouth may be the last new typeface cut in metal. Paul Duensing says it was designed by Will Carter as a titling letter for the college of that name for signage and other display uses. It was based on Octavian Roman which Carter and David Kindersley had co-designed in 1960-61 for English Monotype. New figures for this cutting were drawn by Will Rueter of Toronto. Dartmouth was cut and cast in 22-point in 1991 at Duensing's Private Press and Type foundry.
  • Octavian (1961, with David Kindersley).

Obituary: Founder of the Rampant Lions Press, who kept Cambridge supplied with fine printing and lettering of all kinds begun by Will Carter more than 60 years ago and continued by his son Sebastian, the Rampant Lions Press has been the leading English private press of the postwar period, following handsomely in the tradition of the Golden Cockerel and Nonesuch Presses. The Rampant Lions location in Cambridge and its close ties to the university guaranteed a stream of jobbing work in the early years---supporting it financially and spreading its reputation, as well as making it the obvious choice of printer for many books conceived within academia's groves. Both Will and Sebastian have been notable for their wide circle of friends and collaborators from the worlds of typography and lettercutting, fine printing, literary criticism, scholarly publishing and good bookselling. In addition to its own books, the Rampant Lions Press has always taken on work for other publishers, making printing not a solitary obsession, but a co-operative and convivial pleasure. Their customers have included Lord Rothschild, Dadie Rylands, Brooke Crutchley, Douglas Cleverdon and Ted Hughes, while those who produced illustrations for the press have included John Piper, Michael Ayrton, Anthony Gross, Leonard Baskin and John Buckland Wright. At a time when commercial publishing was increasingly done by lithographic methods, the Rampant Lions kept before the public examples of how much deeper, crisper and blacker good presswork from metal type can be. In reaction to photocomposition and then computer setting, there has been something of a revival of private printing, with presses of various degrees of accomplishment and preciousness emerging around the country; but the Rampant Lions was a crucial link back to the days when metal type was in everyday use. The changes in technology also gave it the opportunity to build up a collection of specialist fonts of type from foundries and from other presses, including the Golden Cockerel Roman. William Nicholas Carter was born in Slough into a very bookish family. He was, for instance, a great-great-nephew of the Eton master William Johnson Cory, famous for the Eton Boating Song and his translation of Callimachus' Epigram, "They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead." Cory's Lucretilis was in due course handsomely printed at the Rampant Lions, with an introduction by John Sparrow. Will was the younger brother by seven years of the bookseller, biblio-historian and Housman scholar John Carter, who with Graham Pollard exposed the T. J. Wise forgeries of 19th-century pamphlets, in the classic case of bibliographic detection. Their cousin was the outstanding wood-engraver Reynolds Stone, who was to cut one of several devices for the Rampant Lions, as he previously had for Frances Meynell's Nonesuch. Will Carter's interest in printing began when he visited Oxford University Press in 1924 at the age of 12, where he was allowed to print a visiting card for himself using the 17th-century Fell type. A few days later, John Johnson, who was shortly to become Printer to the University of Oxford, sent the boy some type to experiment with, hoping that it would make for an amusing and useful hobby. After his schooling at Radley, Carter worked as a trainee with the printers Unwin Brothers for two years. He transferred to the Shenval Press, under James Shand, and then to Heffer's printing works in Cambridge in 1934, where he rose to be a designer. In his spare time, he began jobbing printing in Jordan's Yard on an octavo flat-bed Adana press, an Albion hand-press and later an Adana platten press. His first book, in an edition of just 50 copies, was the printer John Baskerville' Preface to his 1758 edition of Paradise Lost. "The pathetic part about it was that I took the text from Updike" wrote Carter years later, "and, beyond noticing a certain abruptness in the ending, didn't realise that it wasn't complete." The slump in the prices of rare books and modern first editions at the beginning of the 1930s made life difficult for private presses. Book-collecting had been fashionable in the giddy 1920s. Books had been bought as financial speculations and there were many eager customers, so it was possible to sell comparatively long runs. "Nonesuch limited editions sold to the full of their hundreds," wrote Sir Frances Meynell in My Lives in 1971. But after the crash of 1929-30, the next two decades saw a retrenchment in book collecting and publishing. Most of the successful new enterprises of the period were in the form of popular editions, such as Penguins, rather than fine collectors' items, and Carter could not support himself with Rampant Lions work alone. He married Barbara Digby in 1939 and moved to Chesterton Road, where they were to live for the rest of their lives. During the war he served in the Royal Navy in the South Atlantic and the Eastern Mediterranean, commanding a converted Greek sailing ship, transporting undercover agents around occupied Greece, until his demobilisation in 1946. Back in England he returned to Heffers, but in 1949 he steeled himself to pursue his passion, and the Rampant Lions Press, named after the family arms, became his full-time occupation. Happily, he was soon commissioned by Geoffrey Keynes to print 75 copies of Emblems of Experience by Siegfried Sassoon, for the author. Although much of his work consisted of printing wedding invitations, change-of-address cards and suchlike announcements, rather than books, it was so conspicuously fine that five years later an entire issue of the typographic world's house magazine, The Monotype Recorder, was devoted to Carter. In 1961 he served as president of the fine printers and typophiles dining society the Double Crown Club. And his life in letters extended beyond printing, into calligraphy, letter-cutting and type-design. In 1936 he had carved some lettering on a round breadboard for Brooke Crutchley, and he was to continue carving decorative alphabets---often of his own design---into different shaped panels for 60 years. In 1948, the year he published an essay on Chancery Italics in Printing Review, he met Eric Gill's last apprentice, the lettercutter David Kindersley, and learnt to cut in slate. The first of his commissions was the war memorial at Magdalene College, and he went on to produce many elegant gravestones and tablets. His lettering in stone and wood was exhibited in Frankfurt, Prague and New York, and his hand and eye were chosen for the foundation stone of the new British Library, cut and installed while St Pancras was still a building site. As he wrote, "the handling of type and the setting out of carved inscriptions came to influence each other. The setting of printer's caps in particular has reached a fine point of sensitivity as a result."

This feeling for the shapes of letters led naturally to his designing his own. His typeface Klang was released by Monotype in 1955, and showed the influence of Rudolf Koch and his son Paul, in whose studio Carter had spend some months in 1938. (The type designer Hermann Zapf had been working nearby in Frankfurt at the time, and Carter considered him a major influence on his own lettering.) Later Carter and Kindersley collaborated on the design of another face, Octavian.

Around 1963 Douglas Cleverdon approached the Rampant Lions to print an edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with ten copper-engravings that had been exe cuted by the artist and writer David Jones in 1928. This partnership was to lead to a series of books under the Clover Hill imprint, culminating in 1981 in the mighty (and mighty expensive) Engravings of David Jones. In 1974 Clover Hill Editions published William Morris's poem The Story of Cupid and Psyche, with wood-engravings designed by Edward Burne-Jones. The blocks for this large two-volume set had been engraved, mostly by Morris, for the Kelmscott Press in 1865 but had never been printed. Fortunately, Brooke Crutchley, by then the Cambridge University Printer, was able to persuade the University Library to lend Will and Sebastian the Kelmscott collection's black-letter Troy type for this edition, the most ambitious collaboration between father and son. Will Carter was artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1969, where for Letraset he designed Dartmouth Titling, a slightly swaggering set of Roman capitals. He served on the Royal Mint's advisory committee from 1971 to 1991, and the architectural advisory panel of Westminster Abbey from 1979 to 1992. He was elected an honorary Fellow of Magdalene College in 1977, and appointed OBE in 1984.

In the summer of 1982 a Rampant Lions retrospective was held at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, for which the Carters wrote and printed a useful catalogue and checklist of the 172 books printed up to that time. By then the press had largely been handed over to Sebastian, and Will was devoting his time to carving and lettering. Over the years he produced many calligraphic book-jackets and title-pages, particularly for Cambridge University Press and Chatto&Windus. He also accepted commissions for book-labels for private collectors, many of which were doubtless pasted into volumes from the Rampant Lions Press. Will Carter's wife died in 1994, but he is survived by his son and three daughters. Will Carter, OBE, printer, type designer and lettercutter, was born on September 24, 1912. He died on March 17, 2001, aged 88.

Catalog of his typefaces. Klingspor link. FontShop link. Linotype link.

Will Carter
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file name: Will Carter David Kindersley Octavian M T 1961

file name: Will Carter David Kindersley Octavian 1961

file name: Will Carter Klang 1955

file name: Will Carter Stephenson Blake Klang Bold

file name: Will Carter Klang Lanston Monotype 1955

file name: Will Carter Klang Lanston Monotype 1955b

file name: Will Carter Klang Lanston Monotype 1955c

file name: Will Carter Klang 1955

file name: Will Carter Klang 1955b

file name: Will Carter Klang 1955c

file name: Will Carter Dartmouth Cut by Duensing

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