American Type Founders was born of a merger of 23 type foundries in 1892. In the early 1920s, American Type Founders had come to dominate the huge foundry type market in the United States. They budgeted a whopping $300,000 (millions in today’s dollars) to produce 60,00 copies of their 1923 Specimen Book. This immense, 1100-page catalog was distributed across North America. Used in print shops, copies were referenced for decades by printers with inky fingers, so clean copies are hard to find, but you can view the entire catalog here.
ATF finally succumbed, in 1993, to the pressures of “cold type.” Luckily for letterpress shops, which have had a resurgence in popularity in the digital age, Mackenzie & Harris Type Foundry, in San Francisco, still produces metal type. There’s also eBay, for foundry type.
The Specimen Book and Catalogue 1923 is available occasionally from booksellers for hundreds of dollars, but the online version provides a satisfying browsing experience.