The 1923 ATF Specimen Book and Catalogue is Reborn Digital

A classic typographic resource, the 1923 edition of the American Type Founders Specimen Book and Catalog, has been released for the first time ever in electronic format. And you can download it for free in full-color, high-resolution PDFs from Sevanti Letterpress.

Huge in both scope and size, the book contained over 1100 pages of type specimens and printed in full color. The folks at Sevanti scanned it from cover to cover.

In addition to the type samples, the book also contains an extensive catalog of printing equipment used back in 1923.

Here’s the description from Sevanti Letterpress:

Not only did this 1100+ page behemoth provide specimens of type, it showed designers how to use it. Printed in full colour throughout, it intersperses specimen pages with hundreds of design examples, using the full palette of type and ornaments available.

With the arts & crafts and art deco movements in full swing, the book ended up being a snapshot of life in the Americas in the ‘roaring 20s’. This book is a fascinating glimpse of a bygone age, including:

  • advertising terminology & design, for a wide spectrum of businesses;
  • a full essay on the etiquette of-and templates for-calling-card sizes;
  • mock wedding invitations (Who would guess that, in 1923, weddings were held late in the afternoon, or in the evening? Or that private railway cars were booked for the convenience of guests?)

It also provides a valuable record of typography in it’s golden age. The influence of such giants as Bruce Rogers, Fred Goudy, and even William Morris can be seen in it’s pages. Countless letterpress enthusiasts have been able to not only identify type, but experience the context in which ornaments and borders were intended to be seen.

Posted on: February 12, 2013

Mike Rankin

Mike is the Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and He is also the author of several video training series, including Font Management Essential Training, InDesign FX, and InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals.

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