A KITCS Moment

That would be “kid in the candy store.” And I should warn you, the geek factor on this post is pretty high.

A few days ago a friend sent me one of those surveys–answer 20 or so questions about your self and pass it on–one of those. [Please note–as a rule I am not a pass-it-on-er and if you ever send me a chain letter (e- or snail-) then I’m sorry to have to say you’re off my Christmas list.]

But anyway, one of the questions was “What was your favorite toy when you were a kid?” and I think I said crayons and paper, and troll dolls. Loved ’em. But there was another thing I loved playing with when I was a kid, and that was movable type. We had drawers of it–type cases or job cases, they’re called. And, courtesy of my Great Uncle Merritt (nb: not 100% sure that’s how he spelled it), we had in our basement, next to the kitty litter and the spare old refrigerator and the ironing board, a printing press. An old hand-cranked letter press. We also had a receipt showing that Uncle Merritt purchased it in 1903.*

How it came down to Dad is unclear to me, but it did, and we were fascinated by it ( I have a distinct sense that somewhere along the line, someone said, “Oh, give that dirty old thing to Fred–he likes to play with that stuff”). Perhaps it came to him because he was a graphic artist by trade. My younger sister even used it to bring in a little extra money when we were in high school, printing business cards and the like. We printed stationery and woodcuts and in general had a great and highly messy and wonderful time with it, getting covered with printer’s ink and enjoying sorting the little bits of type into the proper sections by letter, taking care not to mistake “q” and “p” (remember, the letters on the type were backwards–hence the term “mind your p’s and q’s”), and the fonts by drawer. When we weren’t printing things we might have been poring over Dad’s catalogs of fonts, picking our favorites, gently guided by Dad, who eschewed anything florid or gaudy (little font pun there).

If he were still with us, Dad would have loved playing around on this site, where I spent several happy hours this morning (guided by a link from this Slate article). DaFont features over 8,000 fonts, free for download for personal use. I’m sure I’ll be back there frequently, indulging in a little font love with beauties like these, which I downloaded after great deliberation: the lemon drops, or the peppermint humbugs? Serif? Sans serif? Gothic or celtic? Bold or italic?

To give proper credit, these (reading from the top down) are called (and they were made by):

VTC GoblinHand (Vigilante Typeface Corporation)

1942 Report (Johan Holmdahl)

Jane Austen (Pia Frauss)

JayCons (typologic)

Green Piloww [sic] (Billy Argel)

Jayne Print (Font Garden)

Jaggy Fries (April M.).

Aren’t they wonderful? And don’t you just want to roll around in those font names? I’m telling you, should we ever have another son, we are totally calling him Jaggy Fries.


*It’s still there, don’t worry. My sister doesn’t have room for it and I don’t have any way to get it up here, but it’s not going out of the family. So don’t ask.


2 responses to “A KITCS Moment

  1. Ooooh, I share your passion for fonts, and my family didn’t even have a printing press in the basement! I might have never come aboveground, if they had. So…a person can just download these fonts and, you know, USE them in their work, their emails, their novels and the like? And as for Jaggy Fries, won’t Wil let you rename him that now?

  2. My fantasy is to get the press up here someday–I’ll call you to come over and play!

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