Letterform Archive

Field Trip! The country printers off to the Big City to visit the Letterform Archive. Which, in a word, AMAZING! Still not quite sure how to explain what it is – all I could think of was it’s like going to a friend’s house – if said friend were a wealthy/world-class collector of typographic materials – so I’ll just let the Archive expound (from the website):

Letterform Archive is a nonprofit center for inspiration, education, and collaboration in the letter arts.

We serve existing & potential practitioners, students, and admirers of typography, calligraphy, graphic design, the history of written communication, and adjacent fields. We are open to all, free of charge.

We share our world-class collection with a global audience through visits; public events; courses, workshops, and lectures by visiting artists and designers; publications; exhibitions; and state-of-the-art photography.

We are located in a light-filled loft in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

It’s a fantastic space (although part of my brain couldn’t help wondering about how much a place like that in San Francisco costs!) and just overwhelming the amount of material they have there. Super inspiring as a resource, both the actual items they have and the sheer generosity of it – that one can come in and look at these in some cases one-of-a-kind or at least very rare items. And not just look with your eyes, but, just make sure you wash your hands, actually page through things. See the actual scale of an object, feel the weight of the paper. Wow. WOW. WOW!!! Pinch myself is thisforreals?!

In addition to the library/research area there is a second space that houses the Tholenaar collection, acquired from a Dutch collector. It came from Amsterdam last year in nine big shipping crates, pretty much doubling the archive over night – they are still processing and cataloging! The Annex space also has a classroom area used by the Type@Cooper West program.

Collections Associate Kate Robinson was incredibly gracious with showing us around and answering our questions and super patient with our wandering about and getting distracted with allthethings to look at. One side of the library has display space where framed items are highlighted on a rotating basis. Kate had also pulled out some books and other materials that she thought would be enjoyable for letterpress printers, and then brought out things people thought of and requested during the course of the tour. It was neat to be there with other Co-op members and see and share their excitement – Eric with an Eric Gill book and a Caslon type specimen book, Brooke with the Marinetti Tin Book, which she’d heard of but only seen in reproduction, and many others. So awesome and inspiring!

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1 Response to Letterform Archive

  1. Pingback: WITHOUT TYPE: The Dynamism of Handmade Letters | 2m2t

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