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American Typecasting Fellowship

Acceptance Remarks of Richard L. Hopkins for the American Typecasting Fellowship

Note: APHA presented its 2004 Institutional Award to the American Typecasting Fellowship, represented by Richard L. Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins, editor and publisher of the ATF Newsletter, spoke without notes using a Powerpoint presentation at APHA’s annual meeting held at the New York Public Library on January 24, 2004. The following notes were the basis for his off-the-cuff remarks, and have been expanded and slightly revised for presentation on the web.

What Is the American Typecasting Fellowship?

From the outset, I express my profound thanks to the American Printing History Association for selecting the American Typecasting Fellowship to be recipient of its 2004 Laureate Award for “a distinguished contribution to the study, recording, preservation or dissemination of printing history.” I am honored to be here among you to accept the award.

Since I suspect many of you have never heard of our organization, I will attempt to explain who we are. I can take credit for founding the American Typecasting Fellowship simply because I was the one who called the first meeting of typecasting enthusiasts together back in 1978. I was acting upon the consuming fascination I had with metal type–something which had “infested” me when I was in the seventh grade in 1953. By 1978 I had acquired my own Monotype system and had been successfully casting type for about seven years.

The reason I called the group together was simple: I knew there were other individuals “out there” who shared my fascination with type, and I wanted to bring them together to see if we might have a common bond. Thirty persons attended that first Conference, and it proved to be a “little gift from God to all of us,” for we found there was an intense common bond. Some were on such a “high” they never went to bed for three days. Instead, they stayed up through the nights, with non-stop chatter about Monotype machines, type designers, type designs, engraving mats, electro-depositing mats, three-phase electricity, converting machines from natural gas to LP gas, and all the other “in-between” stuff you get into when you become your own typecaster.

At one point during the meeting, I was on an errand to a nearby LP gas supplier to obtain hoses and couplings so we could hook up an ancient Bruce pivotal caster brought by Pat Taylor in pieces, strapped to the top of his sub-compact car. (I believe it had originally belonged to Ben Lieberman, a founder of APHA.) Pat and others had assembled the machine in my garage and they wanted to make type with it–and they did! But I’ve gotten off track. While I was out seeking these supplies, a group headed by Harold Berliner decided to name the organization and set up its by-laws. There was a good amount of alcohol involved, and the original text was scribbled on the back of an envelope. Here is what they came up with:

“Article I. The name of this association is the American Typecasting Fellowship.
“Article II. There will be no officers of this association.
“Article III. There will be two committees: a meeting committee and a communications committee. 
“Article IV. There will be no dues and the committees are urged to use their imagination in raising what little money they need for expenses.
“Article V. There will be no other by-laws.”

Clearly, no one had vision of a “continuing organization.” I promised those in attendance that I would forward to them all a listing of discontinued American Type Founders faces which I had pulled from the 1959 ATF specimen book, along with a list of those in attendance. Hence, I put together my first edition of the ATF Newsletter, a combination of four 8.5×11 pages letterpressed and six offset.

Over the ensuing years, the only things which have held our organization together have been (a) the Newsletter, which I have continued to publish about once a year, and (b) our biennial meetings, called “Conferences,” which have ranged from Oxford, England, to Provo, Utah, and several places in between. From the outset, my single goal has been a strong orientation toward typecasting (and linecasting) equipment, its use, its maintenance, and proper care. On occasion the organization has strayed into the realm of what I call “bookish” venues, but I always have tried to pull us back to this central focus of using type-making equipment.

After two issues, I changed the format of my ATF Newsletter to a 7×10 page size so I could do it two pages at a time on my 10×15 Heidelberg windmill. I now also am a professional printer, so I’ll confess to having done several issues via offset, but there’s always been a thrust to try to do as much as possible hot metal. After all, that’s why we exist, right? And yes, my issues have, at times, become quite “bookish.” But also in these issues you’ll see articles about how to readjust a Monotype bridge, how to clean the waterways in a mold, or other down-to-earth practical discussions. I have neglected Linecasters and Ludlow machines only because their users only infrequently have come forward with articles; I have knowledge of these machines but don’t feel qualified to write “how-to” articles. TheNewsletter generally ranges around 40 pages per issue, so perhaps I should not have stayed with the name for indeed, as the samples I have with me will demonstrate, the publication is closer to a “scholarly journal,” as haughty and repugnant as that term might seem to me personally.

I insist there is absolutely nothing impressive about a dead, dusty, greasy Monotype machine sitting in the corner of a museum. The same can be said about a Linotype machine. But it is astonishing how animated and intrigued people become when they see one of these machines in operation. Way back when I was a college typography professor, my students, when visiting typography shops in Pittsburgh, always lingered in the hot metal departments, but scarcely raised an eyebrow when facing a big beige box described as a phototypesetting system.

I firmly believe the massive amount of human engineering, innovation, and sheer blood, sweat and tears, involved in the development and perfection of these devices–the technology, if you will–is just as important for preservation as the machines themselves. That’s what ATF is all about. There is a side benefit to this–the supplying of fresh type to those who continue to pop up as “private printers” or “private pressmen.” Without our typecasting efforts, soon their presses would all become silent.

Several of our ATF conference have had sessions regarding matters of equipment disposition, and the “training of a new generation of typecasters.” I personally had no instruction from a so-called “professional”; I taught myself how to use my Monotype machine in 1971. But many associates of ATF (keep in mind, we have no members!) were either typecasters by profession, or received their knowledge by working with professionals. In my Newsletter in 1994, I put out the call to start offering classes, but few responded. So I asked my good friends Paul Duensing and Roy Rice if they would help me with a week-long hands-on session with Monotype machines. They agreed and we took on our first four students. Somewhere along the line, Paul Duensing labeled the session “Monotype University.” That was in 1995. Since then, we have conducted sessions every two years and now have 26 graduates. More importantly, we have a new generation of typecasters enthusiastic enough to seek out and obtain their own equipment, and use it. There’s nothing more gratifying to me than receiving a small package in the mail containing a couple lines of type cast on a new machine by a graduate of Monotype University.

Thus, one might conclude that the American Typecasting Fellowship is trying to live up to the honor of this APHA laureate by both recording typecasting history and technology in its Newsletter, and by passing essential information among its members (especially via e-mail) and on to a new generation of typecasting enthusiasts. Perhaps our lack of formal organization is to our great advantage? Time will tell.

I am most gratified that the American Printing History Association has seen fit to name the American Typecasting Fellowship as recipient of the “institutional laureate” for 2004. The award states we’ve been “a significant contributor to the preservation of printing history” and I concur. It’s been our goal from the outset, with our quirky little angle of keeping the machinery that helped build this industry alive and operational. Words on paper are not adequate for the preservation of printing history. We seek to keep alive the machines and their technology, complete with their smoke, grease, and occasional metal splashes. Your laureate gives us a bit of self-satisfaction and encouragement, and for that we remain most grateful.

Richard L. Hopkins,
American Typecasting Fellowship
23 January 2004

Posted with the author’s permission. Copyright remains with the author.

Interested persons may contact ATF and Rich Hopkins by writing directly: Richard L. Hopkins, P. O. Box 263, Terra Alta, West Virginia 26764. E-mail wvtypenut