Nineteenth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, Nicolette Gray, 1938
I managed to get a copy of this wonderful book this week. Flicking through the pages, I realised that I’m familiar with many of the specimens as they’ve been shared online before. I’ve hastily pulled together some snaps here just to give a feel for the content.
Gray documents the origins of many font styles that we are familiar with from this period; the fat face, Egyptian (slab serifs), the first common use of sans serifs, then their ornamented evolutions.
The types stem from a hotbed of competing foundries in Central London, most notably; Fry, Fann Street, Caslon and Figgins. The foundries acted as a cartel and it was a cutthroat business with high stakes. The big names became quite rich and some, like Caslon, held positions in high office.
Even my hasty comparison of the back-sloped A, above, make it obvious how closely the foundries copied each other’s styles. The A on the left “Twelve Line Pica” by Caslon, 1821 and the decorated version on the right is by Pouchee’s foundry, likely from a few years later.
The decorated types shown in the book by Pouchée have been misattributed by Gray*. Pouchée’s foundry closed in 1830, likely put out of business by the cartel who didn’t appreciate being undercut or that Pouchée paid his workers better salaries. His materials, including the stereograms of 26 decorated alphabets, were sold to Caslon where they seemed to be forgotten about for the next 150 years.
You can still see traces of the foundries in and around Clerkenwell, East Central London, Caslon’s Building is still there and you can still see the Vincent Figgins monogram in the railings surrounding their old building just off Farringdon Road. To see the scale of Caslon’s Foundry take a look here:
This is the period of type design that I find most fascinating. Especially the quick-fire evolution of new styles, like the fat face and Clarendons (1845), all in response to new advertising demands and changing fashions. Stanley Morrison hated them. In 1926 he wrote “The type cut between 1810 and 1850 represent the worst that has ever been.”
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Typeface design winners – A quick glance back to 2015.
This week The Type Directors Club is due to announce the winners of the 2106 TDC Typeface Design competition. While the details are finalised I take a look back at the winners from 2015 and below I’ve picked a few of my personal favourites.
Trying not to be biased towards an antipodean typeface or that my friend Dave Foster worked on the design, Domaine Sans is an inspired interpretation of a high contrast sans serif. It certainly shows how beautiful the style can be – those swashes…what’s not to love? I’ve seen a few typefaces of this style cross my path since 2015, including Valter, another TDC winner and Vinter, featured on ILT. I wonder if this represents a trend?
This woodtype and letterpress inspired design automatically rotates between three different versions for each letter or number. When two same glyphs are typed together the font replaces them with their narrow variants so they fill just a single square together. There’s a whopping selection of 500 symbols some of which stack together to make little pictures.
Love ScriptbyDesigner: Neil Summerour, Jefferson, Georgia
“Love Script gives a nod to bold stylised brush scripts from the ’50s, yet the line quality and type of contrast make it undeniably contemporary. The plethora of rich OpenType features like swashes, titling and other alternates, ligatures and so on allow the user to approximate brush text hand lettered by a skilled lettering artist.”
I recognised this display typeface from a feature in the Typograph.journal. The one weight font, inspired by blackletter types emphases its straight lines and heads in the opposite direction to the shapely curves normally associated with scripts.
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Which was your favourite? Let me know in the comments below…