Controlled Lettering System
Ref. : 460 900 (9 rulers / 6 Pens set)
460 901 (9 rulers set)
461 900 (13 rulers / 8 Pens set)
461 901 (13 rulers set)
Production Date : Early to Mid 1980’s
The Rotring Controlled Lettering System is quite a weird device. It is heavily inspired by the Keuffel & Esser’s Leroy lettering System which was very popular in the USA and UK during the late 1960’s / 1970’s. A lot of other companies also produced some very similar devices and I guess Rotring has paid some kind of royalties to produce this item.
The set consists of 13 plastic rulers with increasing letter sizes. You can see at the end of this post the page of the 1987 Rotring catalog detailing the available sizes. The rulers are double-sided engraved plastic pieces. The main device is similar to a pantograph but with no magnifying purposes. You plug an Isograph by its very tip into one arm, and you follow the grooves on the rulers with the metal tip fitted on the other arm. The distance between the two arms can be increased or reduced. This affects the rendering of the letters. The smallest space yelds vertical letters and the more you increase the space, the more the letters are slanted (see sample pictures of minimum and maximum angle).
Well this is for the theory… In practice, things became much more complicated. First, everything had to be firmly held in position on your drawing board, nothing was to move except for sliding the ruler and selecting your letter. The main weak point of this set lays in the rulers. I think the « grooves » of the letters are not deep enough, causing the guiding arm to skip and jump continuously off the groove with immediate disastrous results on the paper. I had already seen this kind of sets back in days when I started working in design studios in the very late 1980’s. An old « veteran » designer told me that you could achieve good results but only with a lot of practice. They were not used a lot (if ever) and I clearly lack training because I found it one of the most user-unfriendly tools Rotring ever produced along with the user interface of the early Rotring NC-Scriber.
I have a « deluxe » set, but unfortunately it came in poor condition. I’m missing 3 rulers and the original cardboard box. I’ve also got no instructions leaflet but I don’t know if Rotring ever provided one. However I’m happy with this one because if Leroy’s set are easily available, the one branded by Rotring are far more scarce to find. I doubt Rotring sold a lot of these sets, considering they already had a very strong lettering solution with their plastic templates, which are – in my opinion – far more easy to operate and give much better results.
Thanks to JF Winter for the English proofreading.