Found this interesting font on a government letter in an archive. Would love to learn the type face!

enter image description here

  • 3
    There are many very similar on whatthefont. The only thing really 'interesting' is the kerning appears to have been done on horseback ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 22, 2023 at 11:21
  • Haha yeah fair enough, but I kinda love it? Jan 23, 2023 at 2:46
  • 1
    And despite the "lovely" characters they couldn't spell FORWARDING correctly. [sigh]
    – chicks
    Jan 24, 2023 at 19:22
  • imho there's strange letter spacing in this font
    – Lucian
    Feb 11, 2023 at 17:26
  • 1
    There is always a sacrificial tpyo in printed matter. Just be glad it wasn't a misspelling of "Public"
    – Yorik
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


The general genre is neogrotesque, and it looks like Univers was the main inspiration or even that this is a licensed version of it. A lot of characters especially GQty17 are very similar, almost identical. (It's heavily inked so it's hard to be sure what the original font design looks like underneath the noise.)

Here's a remake in U001, URW's version of Univers:

Remake of image in Univers

But the spacing is very different to any version of Univers I've ever seen. Univers has very regular spacing, this has lots of weird gaps like at the "vic" on Services or after the "r". So this doesn't look like Univers in metal type or phototype-it looks like something made by some kind of limited lettering or reproduction machine. The odd spacing on the lower case suggests a machine which had to use a set of specific character widths. It reminds me a lot of an adaptation IBM did of Univers for typewriter-but that looks different to this, far more tightly spaced. (Tighter than the metal type, in fact.) Overall this feels like something drawn by an engineer creating a machine, one in which the letterforms weren't the highest priority.

More subtly, this could be the effect of ink spread and I'd need to measure to be sure, but this also feels a bit more monoline than most standard font design, the horizontal strokes would perhaps normally be slightly thinner compared to the verticals. But it's subtle and I could be seeing things on that one, it could be an effect of the reproduction method.

To find something like this, I would search for fonts in the neogrotesque style but not the famous ones, not Helvetica and Univers and Folio, look at more recent fonts by more experimental designers interested in more "outsider art" feeling fonts. Authentic Sans has a lot of the "not-designed" feel of this font, it's free in the basic styles with a paid-for version in more weights, and maybe also check out Reader by Colophon too. Or look at Fonts In Use and start clicking through the neogrotesque fonts that have been popular lately.

There's a freeware digitization of Univers in eight styles called U001 (released by font digitization company URW for a freeware project-long story), which I used for the remake. But it's not going to look quite like this in overall color, it actually has more stroke contrast than the original Univers, so it's going to look much more "designed" than this. Still, it's a nice family and I use it often.

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    Yeah, I think it's very likely some sort of type/reproduction machine font. It's definitely older than 20 years given its location in the archive. An IBM printing machine using a (perhaps dumbed down?) version of Univers for large-scale operations would make sense. Jan 23, 2023 at 2:59
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    ZIP+4 was introduced in the early 80s. Federal Government agencies would have adopted it quickly. The comma before the state was "officially" deprecated in the mid-90s by the US Postal service I think (formalization for electronic sorting)
    – Yorik
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:18
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    There are signs that this is a dot-matrix font, especially on the curves. I expect it doesn't read that way because it was used as art for a press and so photo thresholding/contrast > plate (no halftone) > ink. If dot matrix, then it would probably be a device bitmap font
    – Yorik
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:25
  • That's a good point. I'm not sure it's dot matrix, it could also be some kind of font made of straight lines rather than complete curves so the curve is actually lots of small straight lines linked up. But I think tracking down someone who worked in government printing at this time would be your best bet. Post on some LinkedIn or Facebook group for retired government workers?
    – Copilot
    Feb 14, 2023 at 20:41

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