Solopedia - The search for digital fonts that match The Solotype Catalog

HVB's picture

What follows is the text of a recent post (by "Character") to comp.fonts.

The Solopedia Project

A compendium of digital fonts that match the typefaces displayed in "The Solotype Catalog of 4,147 Display Typefaces" (1992, by Dan X. Solo, Dover Publications, 1992)

Towards the end of 2009, "Fontana" issued a spreadsheet containing a list of the typefaces contained in the Solotype Catalog. At the same time, "Character" was preparing a similar concordance, which wasn't nearly as far along as Fontana's, so her spreadsheet became the template for the project.

Since then Character has taken the reins, and with the contributions, ideas, and assistance of many others, has been publishing an updated version monthly. This is posted to alt.binaries.fonts (a usenet group) and to annexcafe.fonts (a newsgroup on a stand-alone news server).

The name "Solopedia" was suggested by "La Vie Dansante" and has since become the name generally used for the spreadsheet, the project and associated web pages.

A web-friendly current version of the Solopedia can be found at: http://fontek.fateback.com/

There are also related pages that include references to all of Dan Solo's Alphabet books, http://fontek.fateback.com/alphabet_book_fonts.htm

No organized search for fonts matching those in the alphabet books has been undertaken; many of the alphabets are already represented in the Solotype Catalog.

Note that except as designers and foundries are listed in the Solopedia, this is not a source for the identified digital versions. The fontek website has added many links to commercial distributors such as MyFonts, and links to sources for the numerous legitimately free fonts that have been identified. Some of these free fonts have been created as a result of the Solopedia Project, as have some commercial fonts.

In March, 2012, in Annexcafe.fonts, "Tommy" asked about the goal of the Solopedia, to which Fontana provided the following eloquent response:

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FWIW: Here is a little about the emotion and affection I think is helping to sustain the Solopedia project.

Whatever its flaws, the once widely-circulated and affordable Dover-published "Solotype Catalog .." was either the original introduction (or one of several introductory sources) for typeface appreciation and desire for many hobbyists. Without exhaustive coverage (impossible), that publication successfully communicated the idea that typefaces exist in astonishing variety and that studying them can be fascinating and fun. It still gives me a smile just to flip through its pages. (Or maybe I am just easily amused?)

For one, I did not even realize at the time I encountered the Solocat that other typeface catalogs even existed. (Silly ignorance; typesetting and print shops had to buy them somewhere.) The idea that there might be access to digital versions of many, even most of the quirky faces for play or even practical purposes seemed almost too good to be true. Not only has the project already located more digital equivalents than any of the participants once thought possible, but it has spurred a number of volunteers more talented than I to create over a hundred new digitizations of Solo faces where none previously existed. Unexpected delight.

Collecting free and affordable typefaces appeals to me more than collecting insects, matchbooks, coins, stamps, or a variety of other collectibles -- though perhaps for some of the same reasons that collectors in those hobbies are excited about their interest. Once "hooked" on the idea, the project apparently seems self-evidently worthwhile to a number of the participants. I much appreciate how much farther it has developed collectively than any of us could have taken it as a (pun intended) solo task. A pleasant shock.

I am guardedly hoping that someday someone will at least discover and share the provenance of the mystery faces from pages 192 to 202. Though some are standards, and some look like they could be from a single vendor collection, others among them don't produce a single Google hit, and don't seem to match designs known by other names. A few examples: British, Callorte, Clova, Hotspur, Jaeger, Lothario, Monkton, Rivington. [Ed. note: Digitized matches for British, Callorte, Jaeger, Lothario, and Monkton, have since been found. Fontana herself found a light version of Hotspur.]

The typeface community seems populated by friendly, intelligent, helpful, generous people with a great sense of humor. Sometimes a visit is a warm vacation from a colder, harsher world. Contributing to the hobby can be a way to virtually hang out with these good folk. Wow, if I wax any more poetic I'll have to switch to iambic pentameter or add a music track.

Hugs to whomever wants them.

Fontana --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Additional matches are more than welcome. Information can be posted here; use the work Solopedia in the subject.

- Herb

Nick Shinn's picture

I decline to be interested in old types, generically or theoretically.
I gave up reading this post pretty quickly.
However, if you show me something, it may catch my interest …

riccard0's picture

Optikos, as seen here (http://books.google.it/books?id=wIBUC2jFh_oC&pg=PA193), looks like a modification of Revue (http://www.myfonts.com/search/revue/).

Chris G's picture

I decline to be interested in old types, generically or theoretically.
I gave up reading this post pretty quickly.
However, if you show me something, it may catch my interest.

Quickly, someone do something, you're about to lose him...

HVB's picture

OldNick: Thank you for your matches. I've forwarded the great additional information you've provided. It should be included in the forthcoming March update.

Based on the alphabetic matches, I'll bet that your portfolio has many more that haven't previously been identified! Thanks again.

- Herb VB

Té Rowan's picture

There's something cock-eyed somewhere *looks pointedly at Nick Shinn* but millenium hand and shrimp if I can point out what.

oldnick's picture

Overlooked this one earlier...

Arcadian (27, 59) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/double-d-nf/

HVB's picture

Wonderful! I'm beginning to realize why so many of the Solotype catalog fonts look so familiar. Because I saw them at Nick's Fonts first!

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Up next, Linopedia! The search for digital (free) fonts that match The Linotype Catalog! Hurrrrrrrrayyy!!!!!!!!!!

(go kill yourself)

oldnick's picture

Hey, what about reasonably priced fonts?

Different people have different interests; simply because those interests don't coincide with one's own doesn't mean one should blithely dismiss the project (à la Nick Shinn), nor hold it in complete contempt (à la Ryan Maelhorn ). Can we have a Rodney King moment here, folks?

HVB's picture

Ryan

The Solotype catalog is a catalog of images and does NOT represent fonts available from Dan Solo, although he DID digitize some of them, and they are of course listed in the Solopedia. If you're not familiar with it, the catalog was produced as list of services he offered at his printshop from the mid 1930's through the mid 90's, including special effects as well as font selection.

In no way is the Solopedia an attempt to identify free clones, as you intimate. I haven't looked with that in mind, but I'd estimate that 90% of the identified digitizations are commercial fonts from such sources as Nicksfonts, Linotype, URW, etc. Where free fonts are known, they are also listed; in some cases they are the only known digitization, while in others they may be equivalent or inferior to commercial equivalents, and yes, unfortunately, some are known to be clones from such sour ces as Opti/Castcraft, WSI, and SouthernSoftware.

- Herb.

Frank U. Finkelstein's picture

>Up next, Linopedia!

I've dribbled drool on the Solotype Catalog. Linotype isn't nearly as sexy.

— Frank U.

paul d hunt's picture

P22 Kilkenney is my digitization of Nymphic by Hermann Ihlenberg. The Solotype showing was one of my main sources for this revival.

riccard0's picture

In an older thread I found this link:
http://home.planet.nl/~voogt053/FontSources.htm
It’s a sort of “Curtispedia” ;-)
It lists sources for a number of Nick’s fonts, including Solo’s catalogues.

HVB's picture

Yes, thank you. There are also number of his fonts there that match the Solo catalog but came from different sources (likely the same sources as Solo's). Those are much harder to find and identify!

- Herb

Diner's picture

I'm surprised this hasn't been pointed out yet, but the majority of the fonts contained within the Solotype library have already been identified as having been created by Filmotype, a company I acquired and have been in the process of redigitizing these original works for some time now with a junto of professional typefaces designers.

I'll take this opportunity to remind folks that unlike the House Industries acquisition and redigitization of the Photo Lettering Inc librar which is a closed and private effort, any professional typeface designers with at least 40 professional quality faces under their belt can participate in the redigitization of the Filmotype library.

eliason's picture

professional typeface designers with at least 40 professional quality faces under their belt

I'm just curious--How many people do you think are in that pool?

oldnick's picture

I'm just curious--How many people do you think are in that pool?

A fair number, and a few more...

Newport (6) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/jazzfest-nf/
Designer Raleigh (7) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/highpoint-gothic-nf/
Oakwood (14) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/oaken-bucket-nf/
Sesame (15) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/habana-sweets-nf/
Fontanesi (22) and Erbar Initials (23) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/kudos-kaps-nf/five/
Bohemia (28) - http://www.myfonts.com/search/terlingua/fonts/
Redwood (29) -http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/round-rock-wbw/
Bindweed (31) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/pilot-point-wbw/
Primula [with fancy caps] (31) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/pony-xpress-nf/pony-xpress-nf/
[ Similar to] Marquette (33) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/san-marcos-wbw/
Torpedo (34) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/spindletop-wbw/
Wilcox Initials (35) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/shadow-lands-nf/
Digest Roman Extended [with lowercase] - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/ysleta-nf/regular/
Prismania Family (54) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/pentaprism-nf/
Vesta (55) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/visillo-adornado-nf/
Lion (55) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/ege-schrift-nf/
Mercantile [with lowercase] (64) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/mercantile-display-nf/
Spooks Alive (69) -http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/boo-meringue-nf/
Samoa (73) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/hardy-har-har-nf/
Siamese (73) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/owah-tagu-siam-nf/
Pericles (74) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/persephone-nf/
Fillet (77) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/streamers-nf/
Pen Print [Regular] (80) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/saturday-morning-toast/italic/
Quaint Roman (84) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/bushwhacked-nf/
Post Oldstyle Italic (84) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/saturday-morning-toast/italic/
Jiffy Script (96) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/got-that-bling-nf/
Gloria (99) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/pismo-clambake-nf/
Personality Script (99) - http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/nicksfonts/gnarly-dude-nf/

Thomas Phinney's picture

oldnick: The question was about how many type designers, not how many typefaces.

oldnick's picture

Thomas,

The first part of my response addressed the incidental question of “how many designers”; the second part was related to the subject of the thread.

Diner's picture

The current Junto includes Ale Paul, Jim Lyles, Patrick Griffin, Mark Simonson, Rian Hughes, Charles Gibbons and I . . . All of whom have developed at least this number of quality typefaces which means we want to keep the bar high for the quality of the revivals we create.

We're certainly looking to expand this group and we have a defined set of standards we adhere to when we create the revivals.

hrant's picture

How many typefaces has Slimbach designed?

hhp

hrant's picture

That's more than I expected.
But you see what I'm getting at Stuart?

hhp

riccard0's picture

Oh, there are people with nominally far fewer typefaces under their belt who have worked on Filmotype fonts (http://www.myfonts.com/foundry/Filmotype/ click on "More info…") but I suspect that that “40” number is mostly a way to discourage less serious people.

hrant's picture

To me a simple "No" when they ask to join would be better than fostering the illusion that the number of typefaces made matters much.

hhp

oldnick's picture

Exclusivity is a matter of perception. As Groucho Marx once remarked, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

hrant's picture

Here's a better criterion: a good text face. Just one. There's no way you can make one if you're not serious.

hhp

Diner's picture

All inquiries are welcomed guys, there is no attempt to be elitist or snobby about it, there are plenty of great fonts in the library and when you take a good long look at the entire project, we're not simply reviving the typefaces, there is a good bit of re-interpretation going on since even the highest quality filmstrips weren't done with perfectly smooth outlines . . .

All the members of the project are very serious about what we're doing and we consider it as historical preservation and that means we have to maintain standards throughout the development process that assures we're respecting the original forms, spacing, kerning, and we must agree on acceptable alternate forms and forms that wouldn't have existed such as the Euro, etc . . . You'd be surprised how much of this is a group effort . . .

I'll be the first to admit my initial idea was just as posted at the top of this thread, slap the Dan X Solo book on the scanner, trace away and call it a revival. That was tempered once I finally met Don Hase and the Friedman family and then it became painfully clear to me it wasn't a slapdash job. It initially required the talents of folks beyond my capabilities as a typeface designer to really bring the work to the level I had intended it be revived as.

I'm very pleased with the result of our efforts thus far and there is plenty of work that remains. The open invitation stands and we welcome all inquiries for participation. I think the original 40 typefaces was more or less a filter as suggested and it is likely a dogmatic mechanism I'll agree to your point Hrant which doesn't truly represent the talents of a designer who's worked on perhaps 15 typefaces or less.

These days, all candidates are discussed by the current members and we decide based on the work that they have published, regardless of volume if we feel they'll be a good fit. And every current member started out by making an inquiry to me which means it's something they shared the vision for the intent of the library which is really the most important aspect of the effort.

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