Jonathan Hoefler is standing in his office on the seventh floor of the Cable Building in Noho, sipping a mug of ginger tea and telling stories about an obscure 16th-century Flemish punch cutter. His people are getting bored and wandering away to check their phones, the people he has brought here today to make sure he doesn’t say anything that will harm him in the ongoing court battle that has torn apart and reconfigured this famous typography firm. But Hoefler doesn’t seem to care. He’s grinning through the gap in his top teeth.
Hoefler picks up an antique type-specimen book and flips through page after page of the punch cutter’s alphabets, explaining why the letterforms are so lovely to him. “I think it’s kind of the gentle taper of these serifs,” he says, running his hand reverently across a page of type. “It gives it a kind of intellectual quality.” This punch cutter’s name was Hendrik van den Keere, and Hoefler points to a series of small geometric shapes that dangle like Christmas-tree ornaments from the interiors of some of van den Keere’s letters. Then he turns the page and points to a lowercase a. See? he says. It doesn’t have the usual “ball terminal” at the upper left. Hoefler looks up. “I think that kind of controlled irregularity is what van den Keere was about.”