Tuesday, April 10, 2012

IBM Selectric Typeball Fonts

I decided today to inventory my IBM Selectric type elements and scan them for display here so I have a reference to what each type looks like so I don't need to keep changing them to see. Maybe it'll be useful for others searching for what some of them look like. If anyone has any to share and would like to add the image or url here, please let me know. It might be informative to create a centralized source for Selectric Fonts if there isn't one already online. I'm sure some book or brochure has them all but I've haven't found it yet.

It was good I went through the batch because I discovered some damaged and chipped and some yellow ones for  Selectric III's in there also. I think my alignment is also off on my typer since it seems to be cutting off the bottoms of letters occasionally.

Update: After posting I decided to do a little research on the Selectric. It's funny I never did it when I first purchased it. I bought it so I could use it and it didn't even occur to me to look it up on the internet. I wasn't a typebarhead yet. That came after getting my manual typerwriters.

I did find a few useful sites. One displayed some of the typefaces, another was a great general resource, and the third interesting find was about the Selectric Composer which I had known nothing about.  I've included the links below for anyone interested and who like the scour the internet. (Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to keep my typewriter bookmarks in one place. I manage them horribly).


  1. Very nice typefaces, cool overview! I love Orator and the two Script ones - they're totally awesome.

  2. Yes, I like Orator too, but I find it too imposing for regular use. That's why I obtained Artisan. I think it's a bit softer.

    Unfortunately it seems the large caps in that font are a little chipped. I doubt it was meant to have an aged beaten up look, but I like it. I'm tempted to roll the ball down the sidewalk and make it even more rugged with the small caps so it looks intended. But I may wait until I get a duplicate ball first. : )

  3. My favorites here are Advocate and Prestige Pica.

    Don't miss Rev. Munk's scans of typewriter typeface compendia here:


    IBM typefaces are included.

  4. Thank you Richard for the great resource. I went through some of it and wonder if they are for the Selectric Composer since they range from 8-14 pitch and they use a coding system that resembles what I read from the Composer site. I wonder how many typefaces were also produced for the II's since the balls are incompatible. And what is NOMDA or what does it stand for?

    BTW, honor to meet you. I love your The Classic Typewriter Page. I have spent many an hour on it before I discovered the Typosphere!

  5. - a typebarhead: Looks like National Office Machine Dealers Association.

    So, those books would've been used to show customers what the type would look like before ordering a machine for them (or type elements in the case of a Selectric).

  6. I've got a late 1980s Finnish IBM font manual somewhere in my archives - I know it's in this apartment but that's the most exact situation I can give. I loved and still love Artisan 12 (available as F25 Artisan TrueType font somewhere), Prestige Elite 12 (available as King TrueType font somewhere), Delegate 10 (available as Delegate-Normal TrueType font somewhere although without the Scandinavian / German ä-ö-å-ü letters) and would have loved Prestige Pica 10 but it wasn't available for the 96-character Selectric III / 196c model.

  7. And if I'm not wrong, the F25 DaisyWheel TrueType font (somewhere) bears some resemblance to Dual Gothic 12 even though it seems to be more like 10 pitch. But, at least with OpenOffice.org, you can squeeze the spacing.

    But what I would *really* love would be those IBM Composer 11/12 point fonts as TrueType ones. The great thing is that they have all the same width, which means that you could change fonts without having to reflow (and rehyphenate and repaginate) the entire text!

  8. Regarding your Orator sample - I doubt there is anything wrong with the ball itself, but Orator was always the hardest to get good quality from and it was not designed to be used with the correctable carbon ribbon for this reason - it's purpose was for typing easy-to-read speech or file notes etc where quality was secondary. But in saying that, I suspect the machine you typed them on needs tweaking.
    1: The tops of some of the characters are chopped off (very obvious on the numbers). I suggest this is due to the ribbon height adjustment - see the Selectric II & III ribbon types alternately on three rows, and if the height is wrong, you can get a problem with the top (or bottom) of every third character, depending on the actual character. There is an adjustment for this on the ribbon lift arm but first makes sure there is not a fold along the very bottom edge of the ribbon, quite a common problem.
    2: The lower portion of all the characters is generally faded, this indicates that the curvature of the typeface does not match the platen and this would most likely be because the platen is set too high - there are eccentric nuts either side to raise and lower the platen height. Platen too low and the tops will fade away, too high and the bottoms fade away. Always adjust in very small increments using "H" as it will give best indication.
    Regards, Steve

  9. Thank you for posting. Do you know where I can purchase an ORATOR type font ball for a Selectric 3 IBM typewriter?
    Thanks, Linda 954-665-5536

  10. Help - is the Courier 10 - 96 upper and lower case for the Selectric iii

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    1. To me, particularly the Prestige Pica 10 was pleasing to the eye, and the Orator 10, I think would make a good choice for first level headings, combined with Artisan 12 for second level ones.
      Did the Selectric series only come in fixed width? Do you perhaps have any suggestions for typewriters with variable point width? I haven't been able to find any that both have variable point width letters, and interchangeable fonts.

  12. Hi there- I'm a designer and prop maker in film and television and really appreciate all of your info here! Do you happen to know of any resources where I can buy these as .ttf or .otf fonts to be used on a modern computer? I try very hard to make my fonts period correct when I'm working on a show set in the 60's - 70's, but I'm finding it difficult to get accurate, well made fonts that also appear to be typed by hand. Thanks for any help you can offer me!

  13. When I worked at the Pentagon in 1976 we had a "speech ball" that was a very large font. We would use the speech ball and double line spacing for when we were typing testimony the naval officers would be reading aloud in Congressional hearings.