TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Sat Jun 22 21:40:57 EDT 2024






Lanston Monotype Machine Company [Tolbert Lanston]

Extinct but influential foundry from the 19th and 20th centuries. P22, the present owner of the Lanston collection, writes: The Lanston Monotype Company was founded in Philadelphia at the end of the nineteenth century by Tolbert Lanston (d. 1913). In 1887 he received his first patent for a mechanical typesetting device. Later refinements led to the Monotype casting machine and the emergence of the Lanston Monotype Company as one of the most renowned type supply companies in the world. The Monotype caster was revolutionary and along with other automated typesetting machines helped to usher in a new age of printing technology. Typesetting had, until this time, remained the same as Gutenberg's first hand-set movable type.

In the late 1800s, Tolbert Lanston licensed his technology to an English sister company and became a major international force, competing with the Mergenthaler company, whose Linotype was a slightly different approach to the same problem. Both cast type from molten lead alloy on demand, fresh for each job, then recycled it. But whereas the Linotype cast whole lines (or slugs) at a time, the Monotype cast single letters, composing them into a page with an action that is a joy to behold.

Lanston Monotype grew rapidly with America's pre-eminent type designer Frederic Goudy as art director from 1920 to 1947. The type library was directed by Sol Hess, who also designed some of the typefaces.

The Philadelphia-based company eventually parted ways with its English counterpart. The thriving English Monotype became simply known as Monotype. By contrast Lanston went through mixed fortunes and lost ground to Mergenthaler. A long-lasting labor dispute interfered with production and servicing of the Monomatic (an absolutely incredible typesetting machine) according to the man who would later own the company, master printer Gerald Giampa. Customers were upset, and the firm was sold on several times until American Type Founders bought it in 1969. Giampa continues the story: "They stopped manufacturing casters because they had always competed with their foundry sales. Then it became a department of Hartzel Machine Works that also manufactured moulds and re-built casters. Then on to Mackenzie and Harris, a type foundry in San Francisco, then purchased by myself and re-located in Vancouver."

Lanston continued supplying the American market for monotype casters until January 21, 2000, when the hot-metal component of Lanston was tragically destroyed by a tidal wave. After this time Giampa, who was one of the earliest developers of PostScript fonts, focussed much more on digitization. Under his stewardship, Lanston's classic typefaces were digitized in a style that was true to the sources, which are the brass and lead patterns from which the metal type was made. The company relocated to Finland, then back to Canada.

In November 2004 P22 type foundry of Buffalo, NY acquired Lanston Type. P22 studios will re-master Lanston's fonts, including the classic designs of Frederic Goudy and Sol Hess, along with newer designs by such contemporary masters as Jim Rimmer, Dave Farey, and Gerald Giampa himself.

The Monotype specimen book of type typefaces (1922, Philadelphia) is a specimen book that is now on the web. View the typefaces designed by Lanston.

Lanston Monotype Machine Company
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Extinct 20th century foundries ⦿ Foundries of the 19th century ⦿ Type scene in Pennsylvania ⦿ Type scene in New York ⦿

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html