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by Jehanne Dubrow

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19 March 2013

Fake it to make it: umlaut edition

One of my favorite parts of letterpress printing is the limitations that the medium presents and how those limitations fuel my creativity when forced to work within them. A couple weeks ago I accepted a commission to print some custom letterpress stationery for a certain typewriter-collecting customer of mine. It was a simple order except for the inclusion of a necessary umlaut. This customer is Swiss and so brings with him a whole new alphabet of letter-attached punctuation that my type cases are not prepared to accommodate. But I was not deterred!

I mulled over the various ways I could manage to print an umlaut over the "u" in "Zurich," while still using my unyielding lead type. The first thing that became clear was that I would have to use a capital letter "U" rather than a lowercase because there would be an immoveable segment of lead between the top of the lowercase "u" and any line of type above it, which would be the nearest I could get any makeshift umlaut. So out of this necessity, I made a stylistic choice to capitalize that entire line of type. And it still looked elegant.

My first idea for faking the umlaut was to turn a colon on its side on top of the uppercase "U." But this ended up being a bit problematic: it was difficult to get the colon centered over the "U." And then filling the line around it with the correct length and width of leads? That was a headache. So then, the obvious occurred to me: two periods side-by-side. Then the spacing is absolutely simple, just more quads, and em and en spaces of the same font size fit there perfectly. And a few carefully placed copper spaces helped me to position my engineered-umlaut exactly centered over the "U." It turned out pretty well, I think.

But what about you? What do you think?

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