On a recent trip to Taiwan we were introduced to a hidden gem tucked away behind the bustling streets of Taipei. Strolling passed at around midday we peeked inside the large sliding doors which were slightly ajar. All the lights were out inside and we could only just make out the first few rows of what appeared to be the most extensive library of type cases known to man. Not wanting to intrude on their lunch break we wandered around the area in search of food.
It was not your typical touristy area but like most places you are never too far away from air-conditioning and free Wifi. After a quick bite to eat we set off down the adjacent streets which were mostly lined with local print studios and stationery wholesalers.
When we arrived back at the entrance there was a queue of people all eagerly waiting to get inside. Upon entering there was a sign which served as a polite reminder to place all hand baggage in the storage area so as not to cause any accidental damage. Of course we were happy to oblige, but not without first grabbing our cameras and holding them firmly in front of our faces.
The sheer amount of lead characters lining the walls will make your eyes bulge, and the way in which they are all so meticulously catalogued and arranged is enough to make a designer go weak at the knees. As one of the largest collections of Chinese movable type in the world, it is difficult to know where to begin.
We started off by shuffling slowly along like hyperactive snails, glancing up and down at every single piece of the 10 million or so lead characters. After realising that it may take most of the day to get through even half, we decided to approach somebody for assistance. In all honesty we weren't entirely sure what it was we were looking for, all we knew is that we definitely couldn't leave without at least showing our support.
A kind lady in an apron showed us to an area in the corner where they had prepared an A4 sized booklet with the full list of fonts and sizes. From this catalogue we were able to narrow down our selection to a fairly unique geometric sans-serif font reminiscent of 1930s typography. We had to then make sure that all the characters we needed were already available, since any missing pieces would have to be machined from scratch. This part really makes you appreciate just how much we take technology for granted in the 21st Century.
Typing out a single paragraph in a word document and hitting print has become second nature and is something that the average person can achieve with little to no effort. However, using the traditional method you would have had to spend hours setting all the spacings by hand in order to compose a single line of text, and that is before you've even inked up the rollers and got the press turning.
At Stamptitude we are lucky enough to practice a similar form of craftsmanship each and every day in our studio. Granted, we use a variety of modern technologies in order to get the job done quickly and more efficiently but the process of machining our stamps invokes the same feelings of romance and passion that most creators have for their individual craft.
It is this same feeling that can be enjoyed when wax sealing a wedding invite by hand. That old-world physical engagement is something that we constantly strive for.
Although we did not get a chance to meet the owner, we would like to thank Mr.Chang for his efforts in maintaining this wonderful collection and for keeping the tradition alive despite the changing environment.
If you would like to learn more about the Ri Xing Type Foundry or fancy a visit in person, we have linked their website and address below: