Chromatic Ornate Type

Multi-layered digital fonts have become all the rage, and allow the user to adjust the colour of each layer and present the illusion of hand-painted signage or 3D lettering. They are a direct descendant of the Chromatic wood types of the late nineteenth century. One recent type revival remains true to both the original design and the medium of wood. Chromatic Ornate is a new two-part font cut from end-grain maple wood by Virgin Wood Type.

The Virgin Wood Type Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New York, has been making new wood type using antique equipment and patterns since 2010. It continues to innovate within this niche market without using CNC routers or laser cutters. This small studio shop acquired vintage patterns for cutting wood type for dozens of designs, but the two-colour patterns were made new based on the few surviving examples of this arcane manufacturing process.

The Chromatic Ornate design was created by the William H. Page Company circa 1874. Page odered many such types, where two companion fonts would each be printed in a semi-transparent ink colour. Where the two fonts overlapped, a third colour would result, thus the term ‘Chromatic type’. The printing of these typefaces required great skill from the compositor and pressman. Because most print shops were not about ‘Art’ but rather job printing, these types were not widely used, and are rarely found in existing printing shops. The scarcity of Chromatic types has made them highly coveted by both printers and collectors. The Virgin odering allows contemporary letterpress printers the opportunity to experiment with a typographic technique that has been out of circulation for over a century. While it may be something of a throwback, Chromatic Ornate is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of nineteenth-century printers and type makers.

You can buy a modern interpretation of this font. Purchase Chromatic Ornate (wood type) at Virgin Wood Type.

Chromatic Ornate Type Magnify

The Devil's Artisan would like to acknowledge the generous financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.