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Death of a Typeface

Robert Granjon (1513–90) was a French type designer who, in 1557, invented a new style of typeface which later came to be know as Civilité, after the civilité or etiquette books which the typeface often appeared in. Although Granjon wished for his Civilité to become the national typeface of France, it never really caught on, and it never seriously competed with Roman and Italic fonts.

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Fun with Fonts

Today I launched two short multiple choice quizzes. The first starts at the beginning with Gutenberg, with questions about his life and his famous Bible. Some of the questions are pretty easy; others you might find rather difficult. The second game, Glorious Glyphs, tests your font identification chops by having you identify individual characters or […]

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Granjon’s Beautiful Bastard

When books began to be printed in the fifteenth century, scribes were not immediately redundant. The rich still commissioned them to produce deluxe manuscripts, governments and local authorities still required secretaries and copyists for administrative documents, and even printed books left spaces for decorated initials and other elements to be added in by hand. What’s […]

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The Most Dangerous Book in the World

On a cold morning in early autumn of 1536, in a small town on the outskirts of Brussels, William Tyndale was led from a tiny prison cell, then chained to a stake, strangled and burned. His crime? Daring to challenge the Catholic Church and his insistence on translating the Bible into English. Tyndale’s translation was […]

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Road-trips & the Invention of Print

We don’t know for sure what prompted Hans Gensfleisch to leave his hometown of Mainz in western Germany for Strasbourg in the south but leave he did, probably in the early 1430s. Founded in the first century BC by the Romans, under emperor Augustus, Mainz had for a time, after the construction of its cathedral […]

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Printed Pandemic: Plague Books

The Black Death of the fourteenth century, a disease named after the symptomatic boils and darkened skin caused by internal bleeding, claimed as many as 200 million lives. Even by the fifteenth century, when populations were just beginning to recover, outbreaks of the same plague were still regularly reoccurring throughout Europe.

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From Farting to Fornication: Early print censorship

During the first half-century of printing in Europe (c. 1450–1500), there were few restrictions on the printing trade — either on who could start a print-shop or on what printers chose to print. As new printers rushed to establish themselves and cash-in on this new technology, they sometimes sought protection in the form of privileges. The […]

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Fonts in Focus: two

For the first in this new series of Fonts in Focus, we visited the New York offices of Hoefler & Co. For this second installment, we remain in New York, just fifteen minutes’ walk from Broadway to Lafayette street and the stateside offices of Commercial Type, established in 2007 and headed by Christian Schwartz in […]

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Point, don’t point

The pointed finger must surely be one of the oldest human gestures. In deep prehistory, long before the evolution of spoken language, and when we were considerably hairier, it is not difficult to imagine one of our primitive human ancestors pointing to a lion, a landmark, or a lemon.

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The Oldest Book in America

Printing was introduced into the Americas by the Italian Giovanni Paoli, better known as Juan Pablos. The first book issued from his press in Mexico City was Doctrina breve, a Spanish handbook of Christian doctrine, written by Juan de Zumárraga, Mexico’s first bishop, and printed in 1539 — making it the Western Hemisphere’s first printed […]

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