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I Love Typography

I Love Typography

Tag: type history

The First Title-Pages


The book in its present form is a product of evolution, serendipity, and design. Its size and proportions accommodations to the human form: the length of our arms; the type size a concession to our visual acuity. Ostensibly, the form of the book has changed little in the past 500 years. The very first printed […]

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The First Printed Children’s Books


Anyone who has children understands that books are a crucial part of their development. Parents also know that children’s books are likely to have relatively short shelf lives; torn pages, chewed corners, and crazed crayoning conspire toward the book’s inevitable annihilation. Fifteenth-century children were no different, and so it is no surprise that most of […]

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Unusual fifteenth-century fonts: part 2


Nowadays, with tens of thousands of fonts available, we are accustomed to a great variety of letterforms. But, of the approximately 1,000 cataloged fifteenth-century roman fonts, very few stand out as unusual. Most share the same fundamental attributes. Almost all roman typefaces of the period are, what we now call humanist: of low contrast, lowercase […]

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Print Imperfect: from N to Z


Over the past couple of years I have been researching and writing a book about the fifteenth-century German printer, Erhard Ratdolt. He printed over 200 titles during his career, and part of my work is to study the content and typography of as many of those editions as possible. Recently, while writing a chapter titled, […]

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The First Printers’ Mark


The very first printers’ mark or printers’ device dates back almost to the very beginning of Western typography. In Mainz, Fust and Schoeffer, employed a printers’ mark in a Bible that they published in 1462. There is an earlier example in their Mainz Psalter of 1457, though many now believe that it was perhaps stamped […]

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Notes on the first Books Printed in Italy


In my recent article on The First Book Printed in Italy, I introduce the first books printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in the Subiaco monastery complex in the Sabine hills to the west of Rome from 1465.

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Murder in Italic


Most will be familiar with the name Francesco Griffo, born in Bologna in 1450, and forever associated with the Venetian printer-publisher Aldus Manutius for whom he designed and cut roman, Greek, and the first italic fonts. Their partnership was an especially fruitful one and their collaboration at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of […]

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The first Bible set in roman type


Sweynheym and Pannartz are credited with introducing printing to Italy via their press at the monastery of Santa Scolastica at Subiaco, outside of Rome in 1465. They appear to have been relatively successful, even sending quite a number of their books to Rome itself. However, in 1467 they move their press to Rome, where by […]

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The First Female Typographer


In the fifteenth century women had few career opportunities. Few, bar those in the higher social classes were even sent to school, and women were not admitted to universities (Oxford university didn’t permit women to matriculate or graduate until 1920). Their options were very limited and pessimistically and perhaps a little exaggeratedly summed up by […]

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Unusual fifteenth-century fonts: part 1


Günther Zainer from Reutlingen introduced printing to Augsburg, Germany in 1468. He likely trained in Strasbourg with Johann Mentelin (who later went into business with Jenson and Johannes de Colonia in Venice). Zainer, during his decade-long career (he died in 1478), published some 100 books.

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Marvelous Medieval Books

My new favorite Tumblr is from Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at Leiden University.

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The first book printed in Italy


During my research for an upcoming book* on the life and work of German Renaissance typographer Erhard Ratdolt, I spent quite some time looking at the introduction of printing to Italy (Ratdolt worked in Venice from 1476 to 1486, thereafter returning to his native Augsburg). The first printers in Italy were, unsurprisingly, from Germany, and […]

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A compulsive tribute to Giambattista Bodoni


In 2013 to mark the bicentenary of Bodoni’s death, designers Riccardo Olocco and Jonathan Pierini will publish the Parmigiano Typographic System which has the ambition of being the most extended family of fonts ever to have been inspired by the great punchcutter and printer who spent most of his life in Parma. Compulsive Bodoni is the name of the […]

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A Pocket Cathedral


There are two different interpretations of the concept of the private press. There is an approach that takes the term in a very wide sense. The hallmark of the private press is that the profit making principle is non-existent. Financial gain is not part of the process. The printer produces a book purely for personal […]

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We love your streets


Save our signage Recently, I posted an interview with type designer Verena Gerlach in which she laments the disappearance of shop signage & lettering (sources she’d used to design FF Karbid). Shops change hands, old signs are taken down or painted over and, in the process, numerous examples of wonderful lettering are forever lost. And […]

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All sorts of type

The Week in Type The type-obsessive, thoroughly inspiring Andrew Byrom in this TEDxUCLA talk, If h is a chair:

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The origins of abc


Where does our alphabet come from? We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will […]

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Creating Grand Gargantua

Perhaps nowadays few will know the exact meaning of these two words, but until the middle of the twentieth century a letter was a small piece of lead, and to use it for printing you literally had to move it around, by hand. In the 20th century big machines like the Monotype, equipped with keyboard, were used for typesetting; but until 1900 all type was set by typesetters, by hand. This simple object: a piece of lead with a letter on top, formed the central part of Gutenberg’s invention, back in the middle of the 15th century.

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Marginal Notes A lovely set of photos of books from the Incunabula [1], from the University of Glasgow Library. Note the hand below the marginal notes. Incunabula explained.

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The library of the Gutenberg Museum

By Dan Reynolds I. Introduction Large or small, letters seem to inhabit their own universe. Re-arrangeable in any combination, they can spell out all conceivable messages, be they poetic, bureaucratic, or anything in between. But sometimes a text is just about its letters themselves, not an object to be read, but one to be looked […]

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Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles

Reviewed by James Puckett I was excited when Taschen announced the first volume of Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, described as “This exuberant selection of typographic fonts and styles traces the modern evolution of the printed letter”*. Such language, including the title, is disingenuous, because this book is not a history.

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A Brief History of Type—Part 5

Slab Serif / Egyptian Welcome to the early 1800s and the birth of the Slab Serif, otherwise known as Egyptian, Square Serif, Mechanical or Mécanes. What’s with the name Egyptian? Upon Napoleon’s return from a three year Egyptian expedition and publication in 1809 of Description de l’Égypt, Egypt was all the rage, and it appears that type […]

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A Brief History of Type


Part Four: Modern (Didone) In the previous installment of this series, we took a closer look at Transitional style typefaces, so-called because they mark a transition from the former Old Style types—epitomized by Baskerville—and the subject of today’s brief history, the Moderns, also known as Didone (the terms Modern and Didone are used synonymously throughout […]

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History of typography: Transitional

Part 3: Siècle des Lumières Welcome to part three of our Type Terms series. In part one we traveled all the way back to the 15th century to take a closer look at the Humanist or Venetian style types with their distinctive lowercase ‘e’ (remember that sloping crossbar?). In part two we considered the Old […]

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History of typography: Old Style

Griffo to Caslon In the first part of this series, we looked at Humanist typefaces; we considered them in their historical context, and took a closer look at some of their distinguishing features and modern-day revivals. Today we’re moving along the time line and will spend a little time familiarizing ourselves with some wonderful Old […]

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