Typographic Prop Masters

In my Typecasting article and Son of Typecasting here in the Notebook section, I hold films under the spotlight and (sometimes) make fun of their use of type. But what about the dedicated few who go that extra mile to create historically accurate typographic props—books, tickets, posters, newspapers, drivers’ licenses, legal documents, and so on—for movies?

Shortly after posting Typecasting on my website a few years ago, I heard from Andrew Leman (www.ahleman.com) who has made a career of forging printed ephemera for movies. He also makes and sells digital fonts based on historical references, many of which were created for use in props. Although it’s not exactly a movie prop, I really love his ElectriClerk which looks like something out of Brazil, and it actually works.

My friend David Steinlicht recently brought to my attention the work of Ross MacDonald (ross-macdonald.com). I’ve known of his work as an illustrator for years, but I had no idea he made props. Turns out, Ross is a letterpress aficionado and actually prints and binds some of his props using traditional printing and bookmaking techniques. Aging is one of his tricks and it’s shocking to read how he abuses some of his beautiful creations to make them look convincingly old and worn.