In 2006, Simone Chisena asked to identify the font used on a scanned two-page spread from a 1970s Italian gardening book. The face turned out to be the American metal type classic Ronaldson Old Style, a MacKellar, Smith & Jordan metal face dating back to 1884. Ronaldson Old Style was never digitized up until that point. A conversation about it started, and the rest was a great 22-month adventure in type history, the result of which is this digital version of what was the best selling and most unique American text face of the nineteenth century, all the way into the 1920s.
The metal Ronaldson was the magnum opus of Alexander Kay, a first generation Scottish-American expert punchcutter. His expertise at cutting roman faces was world-renown. This expertise is quite evident in Ronaldson Old Style’s confident serifs, which loom from the T like an eagle’s wings, and point out of the C, E, F, G, L, S and Z like the proverbial thorns on a rose. Only a master handcutter would be able to include such ornamental traits in a typeface yet still succeed in creating such a cleanly readable face. The popularity of Ronaldson Old Style around the turn of the century can still be seen in new editions of novels from that era.
This digital version of Ronaldson revisits the original sizes, where some of the letter forms varied considerably from one size to another, with a more technologically current, scalable type approach. The forms that were originally cut in display sizes are included in this digital version as alternates. The metal Ronaldson was only a roman style in different sizes. There was a sloped (oblique) version that was mostly deemed unworthy of being a counterpart to the roman, so there were plenty of instances were other old style italics were used with it instead. But even in those instances, the italic always seemed loose and clunky compared to the attractive color and evenness of the roman. In this digital version, a brand new italic was made, as well as a bold weight. Roman and bold small caps were also added, along with oldstyle, tabular, superior and inferior figures, and fractions of both the vulgar and nut varieties. Then plenty of ligatures and extra alternates were added.