Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Hunter Middleton, January 28, 1978

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:08 - Victor Hammer, typecaster

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, was it forty-eight?

Segment Synopsis: Middleton discusses Victor Hammer, the typesetter. Hammer had been an art teacher at Wells College. He developed the American Uncial font.

Keywords: Casting; Cut Punches; Florence; Nussbaumer; Pinder Uncial; Printing; Robert Hunter Middleton; Society of Typographic Arts; Type; Type Founder; Victor Hammer; Vienna; Wells College

Subjects: Florence (Italy); Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Middleton, R. Hunter (Robert Hunter), 1898-1985; Printing; Society of Typographic Arts (Chicago, Ill.); Typesetting; Vienna; Wells College; Writing, Uncial

00:07:37 - Victor Hammer and the American Uncial Type

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Partial Transcript: Well, the continuation of course, of my relationship with Victor was--began to increase.

Segment Synopsis: Victor Hammer met with the Society of Typographic Arts, a design organization in Chicago. This group was very interested in Hammer's work because he was the only person who was working with typography.

Keywords: Aurora; Printing; Typesetting; Uncial font; Victor Hammer

Subjects: Aurora (N.Y. : Town); Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Middleton, R. Hunter (Robert Hunter), 1898-1985; Printing; Typesetting; Writing, Uncial

GPS: Aurora, Cayuga County (N.Y.)
Map Coordinates: 42.746667, -76.699444
00:11:59 - Hammer meets the members of the Society For Typographic Arts

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Partial Transcript: Can you recall the, uh, the shape his remarks took?

Segment Synopsis: Hammer presented the society his idea for an American font that would be suited to printing the English language. Previous fonts in use were better suited to printing the Latin language. The American uncial had both capital and lower case letters.

Keywords: American Uncial Typeface; Hunter Middleton; Printing; Society of Typographic Arts; Typesetting; Victor Hammer

Subjects: American uncial type; Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Middleton, R. Hunter (Robert Hunter), 1898-1985; Printing; Society of Typographic Arts (Chicago, Ill.); Typesetting

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.836944, -87.684722
00:17:43 - Fitting the matrix

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Partial Transcript: And then you were chiefly responsible for, uh, getting people to, to pledge some funds to--

Segment Synopsis: Middleton discusses how to make a smoke proof of a cast. He explains how Victor Hammer and Nussbaumer worked together. Nussbaumer was able to justify the font very carefully, so that it would be aligned correctly.

Keywords: Casters; Facing blocks; Nuremburg Reddick Caster; Smoke proofs; Victor Hammer

Subjects: Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Printing; Type designers; Typesetting

00:26:19 - Hammer's home

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Partial Transcript: And meanwhile you'd gone to visit him at, uh--

Segment Synopsis: Middleton describes visiting Victor Hammer at Wells College. Hammer was an art teacher and also taught printing to the students. Hammer lived in a two-story frame house and had a printing press in his home. Hammer was happy at Wells, where he worked until he reached the age of retirement.

Keywords: Printing presses; Victor Hammer; Wells College

Subjects: Education, Higher; Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Higher education; Printing; Type designers; Typesetting; Wells College

00:31:18 - Early interest in printing

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Edward Johnson, as you know, was, was responsible for most of the interest in the manuscript hands.

Segment Synopsis: Middleton recounts Hammer's early interest in type setting. Edward Johnson used a pen to practice the font by hand. Victor Hammer was interested in the artistic aspects of the font, and did not approve of the work done by the commercial punch cutter. At this time Victor Hammer was still working as a painter. He learned how to engrave and use lithography to make prints. Middleton describes his amazement at the accuracy that Hammer was able to apply to typography.

Keywords: Edward Johnston; Hand presses; Offenbach; Paul Koch; Punch cutters

Subjects: Hand presses; Johnston, Edward, 1872-1944; Koch, Paul, 1906-1945; Printing; Typesetting

00:39:49 - Thomas Bewick's engravings

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back to the, um--(coughs)--to, to, another importance appearance of Hammer in Chicago...

Segment Synopsis: The Chicago Renaissance society made an exhibition of Hammer's work. Middleton got to know Joseph Graves through a mutual interest in a collection of wood engravings by Thomas Bewick, which had been displayed in a memorial edition spanning five volumes. The engravings are very clear. The whole set was auctioned by Sotheby's and wound up in Chicago. Middleton was able to purchase 185 of the Bewick engraving blocks. It took some time for him to learn how to reliably print from these blocks.

Keywords: Argus Bookstore; Ben Abramson; Chicago (Ill.); Engraving; Engraving techniques; Joseph Graves; Lowering; Make-Ready; Raymond McLain; Renaissance Society; Retirement; Sotheby's; Thomas Bewick; Transylvania University; Wells College

Subjects: Bewick, Thomas, 1753-1828; Engraving; McLain, Ray, 1890-1954; Printing; Sotheby & Co., A.G. (Zurich, Switzerland); Transylvania University; Typesetting; University of Chicago. Renaissance Society

00:50:47 - Victor Hammer working with Transylvania University

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to the relab--the relationship with Victor Hammer again, here's what happened.

Segment Synopsis: Henry Regnery was interested in hiring Victor Hammer in order to have Hammer make designs for his books. Middleton persuaded Hammer not to work for Regnery, but to come up and consider a position with Transylvania University. Nevertheless, Middleton foresaw difficulties with Victor Hammer's personality because he was a very strong person. Middleton does not elaborate on what difficulties there were, and instead goes on to highlight the accomplishments of Hammer during his time in Lexington. Hammer created portraits of two Transylvania University presidents, Dr. McLain, and Dr. Rose. Gravesend Press was instituted as a result of Hammer's presence in Lexington.

Keywords: Anvil Press; Frank Rose; Gravesend Press; Henry Regnery; Joseph Graves; Raymond McLain; Transylvania University

Subjects: Anvil Press (Lexington, Ky.); Education, Higher; Graves, Joseph; Higher education; McLain, Ray, 1890-1954; Printing; Regnery, Henry, 1912-1996; Transylvania University; Typesetting

00:58:06 - Hammer moves to Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Well what happened then in that hotel room?

Segment Synopsis: Middleton describes how McLain and Graves decided to hire Hammer and bring him to Transylvania University. In Lexington, Hammer lived in the Hunt-Morgan house for a time.

Keywords: Hunt-Morgan House; Justus Bier; Thomas Merton; Transylvania University; Victor Hammer

Subjects: Bier, Justus, 1899-1990; Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Lexington (Ky.).; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968

GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.040157, -84.458443
01:02:26 - Anvil Press

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about the uh, Anvil Press?

Segment Synopsis: Middleton describes the inception of the Anvil Press. The purpose of establishing the press was at least partly to employ Jacob Hammer. The Anvil Press printed books that were each unique in some way.

Keywords: Anvil Press; Jacob Hammer

Subjects: Anvil Press (Lexington, Ky.); Hammer, Jacob, 1894-1953; Printing; Typesetting

01:05:29 - Hammer's appearance

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Partial Transcript: Could you give a, a description of Hammer?

Segment Synopsis: Middleton gives a physical description of Hammer as a serious-minded artist and craftsman. He was about 5'10, not slender. Hammer was well-read, particularly the Classics, including Plato. He did not speak with much of an accent, but he spoke quickly with a high-pitched voice.

Keywords: Classics; Plato; Victor Hammer

Subjects: Canon (Literature); Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Plato

01:09:09 - The relationship between Middleton and Hammer

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Partial Transcript: Could you talk a little bit about, um, uh, your affinity with Hammer?

Segment Synopsis: Middleton describes the natural relationship that arose between himself and Hammer. Middleton had a background in the arts, which contributed to his interest in Hammer. Middleton became interested in type faces at college, where he was encouraged not to be a printer but to be a designer. This was a similarity in interests between Middleton and Hammer. Middleton was fascinated by the idea of punchcutting by hand, which was a talent that Hammer had. Middleton began punchcutting by hand for his own interests, a skill he learned from Hammer. The segment ends with a discussion of various fonts types, such as Optima, Garamond, Baskerville, and others.

Keywords: Andromarche Font; Art Institute of Chicago; Engraving machines; Ernest Detter; Optima; Victor Hammer

Subjects: Art Institute of Chicago; Engraving machines; Hammer, Victor, 1882-1967; Printing; Typesetting