Who licensed what from whom??

Primary tabs

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
Jeffrey's picture
Joined: 15 Aug 2007 - 3:25am
Who licensed what from whom??

Hi all,

I've been trying to figure out some things about digital type in the early and mid-nineties. I have licensed sets of fonts from URW (not URW++!) and Bitstream. Both these contain ITC fonts, for instance ITC Symbol and ITC New Baskerville. However, these fonts have several differences; For one the kerning differs and the accents are mostly different. Here is an example, ITC Symbol from Bitstream and URW.

Top is the Bitstream version, bottom the URW version. If I compare these to the fonts now offered by ITC on MyFonts, it seems the URW version is closer, whereas the Bitstream version seems to have more generic accents for it‘s fonts. My question is what was licensed from ITC? It seems only the outlines are the same.

As far as I know URW and ITC used to work closely together in realising the ITC fonts, which were also sold by URW at the time. I don't know exactly what their collaboration amounted to, though I know they developed smallcaps fonts for several typefaces, including Mendoza and Symbol. When URW when bankrupt in 1994 the license agreement stopped, and seems to have gone to Elsner and Flake (former URW employees). This is why URW++ does not sell the ITC fonts anymore. Bitstream seemed to have a more straightforward licensing deal, which was ended when Monotype bought ITC.

I'd love to have more info, or corrections, from those in the know.


Alex Kaczun's picture
Joined: 27 Mar 2008 - 12:02pm

In the years of photo and then in the early part of digital (I'm taking about 80s-early 90s), a lot of the ITC stuff was done at Mergenthaler-Linotype and later at Linotype-Hell (same company.. just merged with Hell Graphics). Mergenthaler took the supplied 'film strips' and 'film' letter forms, and adopted them to their grid (unit) system. Linotype felt they did a better job, because they examined all the 'control' characters throughout the family of weights, and made spacing and character proportion adjusted as necessary. The general consensus was that Mergenthaler did a very good, job. The joke on the inside was, why doesn't everybody just leave our stuff alone, like Mergenthaler, instead of changing things, when in fact, it was the other way around. And, we all know that Adobe came to Linotype for the Linotype version of all the fonts currently in use today. Or, I should say... most of them. There are always exceptions.

As far as I know, URW licensed the fonts from Linotype, and as far as I know, should be the same. But then, Elsner & Flake negotiated a licensing agreement to distribute Linotype fonts. I think, they might of made changes. I cannot remember the specifics. Maybe others can shed more light on this.

And then, of course, in the early/mid-80s, Bitstream (created by former Linotype employees) started to create digital versions of the 'Linotype Library' for Camex and Scitex.

An interesting previous thread about Bitstream...


Anyway, Bitstream made many changes (improvements), because of the old Linotype antiquated (18) unit system, and added in their own accents. In some cases Bitstream went back to the original (well-known) designers and actually created a new digital version of the font family(s) with many aesthetic improvements.

But, because they could not get Linotype's blessing, they had to adopt their own font naming scheme. It was actually a very good typeface naming solution. Later on, Linotype negotiated a deal with Bitstream... and all the fonts are still around, different names and different flavors.

That's just about the extent of it. That's why all the differences.

I hope this was helpful.