The Industrial Revolution is often seen as a black hole in the history of typography. In that era the role of the punchcutter changed to that of a largely uncredited factory worker. Records of who worked on individual typefaces are sparse. Today it can seem as if there is practically no information left about the designers of the nineteenth century.
William E. Loy was a type vendor, printer, and writer. Loy was unhappy to see so little credit given to the designers of the types that he had spent decades using and selling. In 1896 he began work on a series of articles profiling type designers that appeared in The Inland Printer, the leading journal of the trade. Drawing on a lifetime of connections he obtained biographical information, photographs, and lists of designs to use in what he termed “sketches” about twenty-seven type designers. It was also his wish to include images of their work, but he was unable to do so for technical reasons.
Years in the business and use of firsthand sources make Loy a very credible source about the period, which spans the heyday of wood type and artistic printing. This credibility is so important because his articles identify the origins of important electrographic and pantographic techniques as well as the artistic printing movement (credited to use of John M. Wehrle’s Ornamented No. 1552, A.K.A. Ray Shaded). Loy’s biographies are brief but enlightening, examining the origins of nineteenth century American designers in England, Scotland and Germany and their subsequent immigration to the United States. The writing avoids speculation in favor of fact glazed with praise for the quality and importance of the type. Each sketch is brief, but packs a good deal of information by not dwelling on trivia.
Nineteenth Century Designers and Engravers of Type republishes Loy’s entire series of articles about America’s type designers. Editors Alastair M. Johnston and Stephen O. Saxe have furthered Loy’s work by using patent records to track down more typefaces not in Loy’s lists. Paired with the articles are images of over 800 typefaces by the designers reproduced from period specimen books. it's about 50$