Type founding, the casting of movable type in metal, is a 15th century invention attributed to Johan Gutenberg. Simple described, the process makes use of a steel punch with a reverse design of a character cut into the end. When driven into copper, the punch forms a matrix. In turn, type is cast when a molten alloy of lead, tin and antimony is poured into the matrix.
Early printers were faced with the task of creating their own type, but by the end of the 16th century independent type foundries began to appear. Type is sold in fonts, a complete collection of characters in a given style and size, and is stored in a wooden case divided into compartments.
The work of a few New Mexico private presses became distinguishable by “house types”—the frequent use of a particular style of letter. Shown here are three specimens of these type faces that were set and printed at the Press of the Palace of the Governors: Neuland, Perpetua and Lydian.