By George Liesch
The Brylski font, designed by Nick Sherman, is the latest font to be completed for the Hamilton Wood Type Museum’s legacy font collection. It follows on the heels of Matthew Carter’s Van Lanen, Erich Spiekermann’s Artz and Louise Fili’s Mardell. All of these fonts are named for people with a connection, in one form or another, to the museum. Jim Van Lanen was the driving force behind the creation of this institution and Dave Artz and Mardell Doubek, a wood type trimmer and pantograph operator, respectively, put in decades of hard work at the Hamilton Mfg. Co. creating the printable letterforms we know and love.
The Brylski font honors Norbert Brylski – longtime Hamilton employee and volunteer at the museum. Norb was employed in the wood type shop at Hamilton’s from the day he started in 1964 until the day the shop was sold to the HWT Corp. in 1985 where he continued working until retirement. In the course of his employment he familiarized himself with every aspect of wood type production: pattern making, sawing, planing to type high, wood preparation, saw and hand trimming, pantograph operation - you name it, he knew the whys and wherefores. He was an absolute wealth of information for the set-up and running of the wood type shop here at the museum. What makes this font extra special, for me anyway, is that I am his daughter and I got to perform many of those steps to cut this font, to walk in his shoes, and to experience firsthand what my father actually did all those years when he trudged off to work with his lunch pail. It has been a remarkable gift especially now that he is no longer with us.
I hear it often said how much Dad meant to the museum but people don’t realize what the museum did for him. Norb enjoyed his work at Hamilton’s, liked the variety of tasks it presented every day, and was proud of the knowledge he accumulated over time. In the end though, it was a factory job, a number on a time card, with little opportunity for the individual to shine. The museum changed all that. Museum visitors, academics and type enthusiasts were really interested in what he did, how he did it, and what he thought. After all those years of toil, when wood type production should have faded into obscurity, suddenly it mattered and he mattered. What a cool thing that was for him, for the museum and …for me.