The covering letter of a 17th-century font maker

As I was going through an interesting collection of manuscripts, I discovered a curious text handwritten on a piece of paper. The writing may be dated to the 17th century, but it’s not clear who wrote it or why. It is about the job of a font or type maker. That’s the person who designs and casts types to be used in printing presses. The author muses on what it means to be a ‘letter founder’, which is also the title of the piece.

I like to think of this document as the font maker’s covering letter for a job application in the 17th-century world of printing and publishing. The author explains his job, his skills and their relevance, while wondering about the history of his profession.

I’ve transcribed the text below. As you read it, it will become clear that our age is not too far off.

The Letter Founder

Casting all sorts of letters of brass for printers, I compose all characters artificially; Whether my business is required for the Latin or French tongue, I am always willing to obey the learned’s commands.

Also my art is required in the Greek way when they print curious books. If this art of ours had not been found out, what a vast number of scribes must there have been?

Because the printer exhibits more in a few hours, than the scribe can in a great many days.’

Would you hire this person?

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