Chasing Sackers, an Early Photocomposition Adapter
I am a stationer for a living—I design engraved stationery. My trade is small and rather insular because what we do is old-fashioned. More about stationery engraving is found in this previous article and in my book, The Complete Engraver.
In the early 1990’s I purchased my first computer and my first computer fonts, ATSackers. These fonts have become such an integral part of my business that it represents my brand.
Figure 1 – Website homepage with branding using Monotype Sackers for masthead art. “Nancy Sharon Collins,” in Sackers Italian Script, “Stationer LLC” in Sackers Gothic Medium. Sackers Gothics, as with most engravers styles, have no lower case characters. MVB Sweet Sans Pro is the web font used for text. It is also inspired by stationery engraver’s letterforms.
Since then, the history of Monotype’s Sackers has become an obsession. Recently, I re-visited my research, here’s what I found:
Currently, there are 11 in the series:
Sackers Italian Script (one weight)
Sackers English Script (one weight)
Sackers Antique Roman (3 styles)
Sackers Gothic (3 weights)
Sackers Square Gothic
Sackers Classic Roman (Sackers Light Classic Roman?)
Sackers Roman (2 weights)
These typefaces, alternatively named ATSackers, were created in the 1970s by the stationery engraver Garrett “Gary” Sackers.
Figure 2 – Photo-engraved copper plate. “Nancy Sharon Collins,” in ATSackers Italian Script and “Stationer LLC ” in Sackers Gothic Medium appear backwards, appropriate for intaglio printing. In this process, ink is applied to the recessed areas, the surface area wiped clean, and paper is applied under pressure then taken away. The resulting impression (in this case a letterhead) is right-reading.
Sackers owned shares in W. A. Buening & Co., a stationery engraving company in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked. In addition to being a stationery engraver, Gary, now deceased, was an entrepreneur and early adopter of the emerging photocomposition technology.
Figure 3 – W. A. Buening & Co. ledger showing the number of shares owned at one time by Gary (Garrett) Sackers. In 2004 Buening was purchased by another Charlotte stationery engraving company, Arzberger Engravers, and Arzberger Stationers was formed.
In 2013, I contacted Bob Weagraff, stationery engraver and friend of Sackers, to find what he knew about Gary’s typefaces. Weagraff was kind enough to share notes Sackers had shared with him. These notes, hand-written and signed by Sackers, explained that he (Gary Sackers) designed the Sackers typefaces, and that he worked with the Compugraphic Corporation on the project. Weagraff told me that Sackers got the styles from engravers Masterplates.
Figure 4. – 2013 letter from Bob Weagraff to me. “WEAGRAFF ENGRAVER” is engraved in Light Classic Roman.
Weagraff, now in his 80s, is still freelancing engraving for the stationery trade. Below is an engraved sample sheet from his company.
Figure 5 – Engraved lettering style specimen sheet by Bob Weagraff. To the stationery trade, these are Masterplate styles.
In his letter to me, Weagraff included Xerox copies of the typefaces Gary Sackers designed for Compugraphic.
Figure 6 – Xerox of Compugraphic catalog with Sackers typefaces. Notice the similarity in these and Weagraff’s Masterplate engraving styles in Figure 5.
Figure 7 – Another Xerox page from Compugraphic Corporation catalog showing Sackers’ type styles.
Figure 8 – Final page from Compugraphic catalog with Sackers’ type Xeroxed by Gary Sackers who sent it to Bob Weagraff, who then sent it, and the two previous pages, to me. Engraved stationery lore, and Sackers’ claim, is that he designed these types.
In 1982, Agfa-Gevaert—German film, chemical, and paper manufacturer—acquired an interest in Compugraphic Corporation. Eventually, the two entities merged becoming Agfa-Compugraphic. According to Alan Haley who worked for both Compugraphic and Monotype, when Compugraphic was acquired, Agfa wanted to brand their type library and named it AgfaType, or “AT” as in ATSackers. On my computer, ATSackers is the name of my 11 Sackers fonts ca. 1991.
Figure 9 – Screen capture from my computer with styles originally designed by Gary Sackers in 1974-’75.
Figure 10 – ATSackers fonts ca. 1991 as typeset on my Macbook Pro Version 10.11.6. The first generation of digital Sackers was difficult to work with because fine strokes printed so thin as to be almost invisible to the naked eye. Monotype corrected the early difficulties. They retain the look and feel of original Masterplate lettering styles as seen in Figure 5.
In 1998, Agfa-Compugraphic bought Monotype forming Agfa-Monotype Corporation and the “AT” was dropped. In 2004, TA Associates bought Agfa-Monotype and changed its name to Monotype Imaging Inc. Today, all of Gary’s engravers styles have been re-engineered by Monotype designers as fully functioning Sackers fonts for use in print, app and web.
Sackers had great foresight in creating phototypesetting art from stationery engravers originals. His handsome set of 11 typefaces bridged several generations of technology: engraving to photocomposition to digital type.