This is one of five articles on Letraset products which are not Action Transfers, but which should be of interest nevertheless.
You can get from each article to any of the others by following these links; they are all worth a look.
It is also part of the article "What are Transfers?" which has further interesting things to say on this subject, & which has links to plenty more pages, both relevant & tangential. It is definitely recommended as additional reading.
(See below for Symbols)
This page from a Letraset catalogue explains the main features of Instant Lettering. It may be difficult to imagine just how revolutionary a product this was back in 1961; before then, only letterpress or hand lettering were widely available, & each of these methods was laborious, time-consuming, & expensive. Suddenly anyone could produce professional typography quickly & at minimal expense; it was truly revolutionary & liberating.
For a few years before 1961, Letraset had made a more cumbersome version available — The Letraset Type Lettering System — but although interesting, it was not widely used.
Of course, now computers handle this kind of thing without any effort being required on the part of the user at all, but this means that in the history of typography, the period 1961 to 1984 was the Age of Letraset.
Three of my favourite fonts, taken from a Letraset catalogue. Below we have my first personal purchases of Instant Lettering; two sheets of Egyptienne Bold Condensed which I bought from an art shop in Pembridge Road, Notting Hill Gate, in 1972. You can see that I never got around to using all the characters!
As well as Art Sheets, Action Transfers/Instant Pictures & Specials, Letraset produced other ranges of graphic transfer products, most of which were labelled as part of the 'Symbols' family. The most popular were the Architectural Symbols ranges (AS & ASH), but there were plenty of others such as flags of the World, International Signage & so on. I'm happy to show you plenty of these on request, but to give you a single example here's one I particularly like.
Interestingly, in their original patent application of 1959, Letraset mentioned music notation as a possible application for their dry transfers; but as far as I know, this was the one & only sheet. It's dated 1980.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives (with thanks to John Hunt)
© Tom Vinelott 2023