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Old 08-30-2009, 12:41 PM   #1
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Default Ed Rondthaler, dead at 104

Edward Rondthaler was a living chronicler of modern typographic history, from handset type to hot metal machine setting, and co-developed the first commercially viable photo-typesetting system. He co-founded the famed Photo-Lettering, Inc. in New York City in 1936, which offered type photo-type (mostly display) to designers and publishers.

During the 1960s PLINC was the essential source of display type for most NYC advertising agencies. Their wonderful specimen books were widely distributed (some are shown in this blog).

They charged something like $5 to $8 a word (at a time when the NYC subway cost 15¢ a trip, gas was 27¢ a gallon, and you could buy four pounds of ground beef for a buck at the grocery store), and could adjust spacing, width, degree of slope, and other qualities to spec. They developed many new faces, some based on hand-lettering (some of that by Ed Benguiat). Photo-Lettering was also responsible for the infamous TNT (tight-not-touching) and even more extreme letter-fitting styles. (By the 1970s most typesetting systems were photo-based, so tight spacing became the norm. Unfortunately.) The company had quite a run, lingering into the 1990s.

Rondthaler was also one of the founders of International Typeface Corporation, another influential typographic entity — publisher of the U&lc quarterly — whose name lives on in many contemporary typefaces: ITC Garamond, Avant Garde, American Typewriter, Benguiat, and more.

Rondthaler wrote a memoir cum typographic history book in 1981: Life With Letters as they turned photogenic. It is an interesting read (though bizarrely type-set and hard to read). It used to be available for $5/copy, but I see that Amazon’s used prices are much higher. A good read.

Ed Rondthaler was born in 1905, died August 19, 2009. This brief obit by Steven Heller in Print magazine includes links to a video featuring Rondthaler as well as a longer obituary in the N.Y. Times.


Last edited by ktinkel; 08-30-2009 at 05:38 PM.
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