Saturday, December 12, 2009

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

Blue Pencil is pleased to announce the first Blue Pencil Editions publication: Helvetica and the New York Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story. This is an updated, expanded, annotated and profusely illustrated version of the essay originally written by me for AIGA Voice in the fall of 2008. The book version takes into account new information and is supplemented by comprehensive notes, a bibliography and a chronology of the New York City subway system. Prof. Clifton Hood, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York (1993), has written an introduction.

The hardcover book was designed by myself and Abby Goldstein. It was printed by Capital Offset Company of Concord, New Hampshire and bound by Acme Bookbinding of Charlestown, Massachusetts. It is covered in black linen with “Subway” stamped in white foil on front and back in Akzidenz Grotesk BQ Medium and Neue Helvetica 65 (Medium) respectively. It is sewn with golden yellow headbands to match the golden yellow endpapers. The paper is Anthem matte coated. There are 273 images including many reproductions of pages from various MTA and NYCTA signage manuals.

Helvetica and the New York Subway System has ganerned advance praise from Steve Heller, Ellen Lupton, Richard Hollis, William Drenttel, Massimo Vignelli, Michael Bierut, Tom Geismar, Erik Spiekermann, Margaret Calvert and Alfred Hoffmann (the son of Eduard Hoffmann, the co-designer of Neue Haas Grotesk aka Helvetica). The book can be ordered online at The website was designed by Greg D’Onofrio and Patricia Belen of Kind Company.

One reason that the book has such an ungainly title is that my story of how the sign system evolved over the past forty years is based on personal recollections and evidence that is continually changing. If readers of the book have information that challenges some of my facts or conclusions then I welcome the opportunity to correct the record. If the book does well there is the possibility of a mass market edition and the chance to revise the text. The standards of the Blue Pencil blog apply to this book as much as they do to any of the books that have been dissected here. I just hope that I have caught all of the typographical errors.

I want to thank the following people (in alphabetical order) for making the book possible:
Stephanie Aaron
Erich Alb
Patricia Belen
Michael Bosniak
Colin Brignall
Arlene Bronzaft
Margaret Calvert
Matthew Carter
Joan Charysyn
Alessandro Colizzi
Jan Conradi
Brian Cudahy
Raleigh D’Adamo
Greg D’Onofrio
Tom Geismar
Stuart Gitlow
Abby Goldstein
Stanley Goldstein
Emily Gordon and Print magazine
Doris Halle
Steve Heller
Michael Hertz
Otmar Hoefer and Linotype Library
Alfred Hoffmann
Clifton Hood
Peter Joseph
Jamie Lemoine
Tom Lincoln
Peter Lloyd
Rod McDonald
MIT Museum
John Montemarano
Lars Müller
Jon Naar
NAGO (Dutch Archive of Graphic Designers)
Bob Noorda
Dave Pirmann
James Puckett
Charles Sachs
Carey Stumm
John Tauranac
Teatro Piccolo, Milano
Joe Testagrose
Type Directors Club
Massimo Vignelli
Howard York

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blue Pencil no. 6 addendum no. 2

James Mosley, former librarian at St. Bride Printing Library in London (one of the great repositories of type specimens), has this to say about the Claude Lamesle specimen in Type: A Visual History:

“…the big “thin” Gros Canon italic in the Lamesle specimen is Robert Granjon’s (not Jannon’s), and was used together with the “thin” Gros Canon roman (which is Garamond’s) in the Imitatio Christi of 1640, the first title from the Imprimerie Royale in Paris. There is a lot of stunning 16th-century stuff in that Lamesle specimen, all crisp and newly cast.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blue Pencil no. 6 addendum

John D. Berry points out that the text of Type: A Visual History does not use f ligatures. This is emblematic of the book. Sloppy writing begets sloppy typography. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blue Pencil no. 6—Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles 1628–1900 vol. 1
edited by Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis and Jan Tholenaar
texts by Jan Tholenaar and Cees W. de Jong
Hong Kong, Köln, London et al—Taschen, 2009

[the cover lists de Jong, Purvis and Tholenaar as editors but the title page only lists de Jong so it is hard to know who is responsible for the captions. The essays are credited to de Jong and Tholenaar.]

the design is by Sense/Net (Andy Dial and Birgit Eichwede)
the concept is credited to de Jong and VK Projects
editorial coordination by Florian Kobler and Kathrin Murr

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles is an example of a book, all too prevalent today, that contains beautiful and fascinating graphic images excellently designed and printed, but whose content is woefully lacking in useful and accurate information and insight. There are relatively few factual errors and virtually no typographic ones in the book. However, the essays are useless and the sparse captions are often either inane or stupid. 

Preface: Type Specimens: A Book about Diverse Letters and Ornaments, with Examples of Artistic Printing” Cees W. de Jong
The preface opens with a discussion of William Caslon and his 1734 specimen and ignores the origins of the type specimen (Erhard Ratdolt is usually credited with the first one in 1484) and its early history. Type: A Visual History is based on the private type specimen collection of Jan Tholenaar which emphasizes specimens between 1830 and 1930. This explains the book’s preponderance of late 19th c. specimens, but is no excuse for not providing an overview of the history of the genre from Ratdolt to the present as a context for Tholenaar’s holdings. The Art of the Type Specimen in the Twentieth Century by John Dreyfus, David Pankow, Mark Batty and Jerry Kelly (New York: International Typeface Company and Rochester: Cary Graphic Arts Collection, 1993) did just that. This exhibition catalogue is still available. Instead of an overview of the history of the type specimen de Jong’s preface is devoted to a list of type designers “employed” by 20th c. foundries. This list conflates designers whose designs were issued by foundries but were freelance (e.g. Otto Eckmann, Bruce Rogers and A.M. Cassandre) with those who were on contract (e.g. W.A. Dwiggins and Jan van Krimpen) and those who were on the payroll (e.g. Morris Fuller Benton, Walter Tracy and Aldo Novarese). Furthermore, this is a bit odd in a book that does not show 20th c. type specimens.

The preface is sloppy, jumping from the summary of Caslon’s career to a much too brief explanation of Tholenaar’s collection to the listing of 20th c. type designers to mentioning the fact that German foundries had branches in Russia. de Jong thanks Jan Tholenaar and Alston W. Purvis for their help with the book, but does not explain Purvis’ role. He did not edit the specimens, nor did he contribute any essays nor do the design. 

p. 7 “20th Century” and “19th Century” 
[throughout the book “Century” is incorrectly capitalized]

p. 7 “Georges Auriol” 
[this should be “George Auriol”]

“Introduction: The Ideal Typeface” by Cees W. de Jong

p. 11 “15th Century” 
[this should be “15th century”]

p. 11 “Our script has evolved from the flow of writing. Naturally, this eventually prompted the development of the serif in printed letters. The amazing thing is that typography developed for hundreds of years internationally, but only with serif typefaces. The first example of the new sans serif style did not appear until 1816 in England.” 
[this betrays a profound lack of knowledge of both paleography and the development of typefaces. It does not explain why and how serifs developed in writing nor why they should have “naturally” appeared in type. Neither does it acknowledge that sans serifs may have been “new” in type in 1816 but that they previously existed in ancient Greek and Roman inscriptions, in Romanesque manuscripts and in Quattrocento Florentine inscriptions as well as in 18th c. England. See “Sans Serif and Other Experimental Inscribed Lettering of the Early Renaissance” by Nicolete Gray in Motif 5 (1960), A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter Identity by Nicolete Gray (Boston: David R. Godine, 1986), and The Nymph and the Grot by James Mosley (Friends of the St. Bride Printing Library, 1999).]

p. 11 “Drastic changes in typography and technology occurred in the 19th Century [sic]. For 400 years, the lead setting system had limited the options; the arrival of new technology changed typography, design, and printing. New styles and traditions emerged.” 
[what were these new technologies? how did they change things? de Jong doesn’t say, even though the specimens in Type: A Visual History provide a perfect opportunity to discuss lithography, electrotyping, stereotyping, the Barth caster, the Benton punchcutting machine, the Linotype and the Monotype, rule-bending devices and so on.]

p. 11 “In 1925, Jan Tschichold published a special edition of Typographische Mitteilungen entitled ‘Elementary Typography.’ It was here that he first formulated his attempts to create a new typography.” 
[this sentence and the paragraph it comes from make no mention of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy who coined the term “die neue typographie” in an essay of that name accompanying the famous 1923 Bauhaus exhibition.]

[de Jong’s essay is principally a potted history of sans serif typefaces and the new typography]

p. 12 “In 1949, Eduard Hoffmann, head of the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, near Basel, was planning a new grotesque typeface. His model was Schelter Grotesk, the official Bauhaus typeface…. Eduard Hoffmann knew exactly how the new typeface should look and entrusted the design to Max Miedinger, who was an expert on grotesque typefaces. His sketches were passed on to the Haas Type Foundry’s in-house punch-cutting works for casting in lead. In 1957, the name of the project was New Haas Grotesque [sic], but Stempel published the new typeface in 1960 under the name Helvetica.” 
[This is not how Eduard Hoffmann told the story of Neue Haas Grotesk’s origins. In “Some Thoughts on New [sic] Haas Grotesk” (1962), reprinted in Helvetica Forever: Story of a Typeface (Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2009), p. 98, he says, “Thirty years earlier [c.1930], the Berthold Akzidenz’s pleasant and appealing forms had impressed various Swiss graphic designers, who were responsible for its comeback. Consequently, this grotesque type was to sire the new design for the Haas Grotesk and give it some valuable stimulus. This was to be seconded by the so-called Schelter Grotesk from Leipzig, whose letters were also characterized by soft round curves. Additional grotesques of the day were examined together with other professionals regarding the pros and cons of individual figures.” Hoffmann’s Journal, selected pages from which are reproduced in Helvetica Forever on pp. 71–97, dates from 16 November 1956 to 20 June 1964. It shows samples of Akzidenz Grotesk and Normal Grotesk (Haas’ earlier sans serif in the grotesque manner) for comparison but no other faces.]

[the typeface name should either be fully Anglicized as New Haas Grotesque or left in German as Neue Haas Grotesk]

[There was no “official” typeface of the Bauhaus, just a favored one. bauhaus: drucksachen, typografie, reklame edited by Gerd Fleischmann (Dusseldorf: Edition Marzona, 1984), p. 7 lists the “Hausschrift” “favored” by the Dessau Bauhaus as Breite fette [wide bold] and Breite halbfette [wide medium] Grotesk from J.G. Schelter & Giesecke, but says that the school also used Venus-Grotesk from Bauersche Giesserei in halbfett [medium], dreiviertelfett [quarter-bold], fett [bold] and breit mager [wide light] cuts; Ideal-Grotesk and Industria from Schriftgiesserei H. Berthold, the modern Grotesk [presumably a geometric sans serif] from Ludwig Wagner A.-G, and even Futura which was accepted as the “Schrift ihrer Zeit”.] 

p. 12 “When Univers, the highly extended typeface family by Adrian Frutiger, was successfully launched, Stempel was forced to redesign the whole range [of Helvetica] according to the method Frutiger initiated, using numbers for the different members of the Helvetica family. Helvetica was just what designers in the early 1970s were looking for. In 1982, Stempel introduced New Helvetica.”
[The revised version of Helvetica is properly called “Neue Helvetica” and not Helvetica neue, a name created for alphabetization purposes to insure that the face appears under H and not N in drop-down menus.]

[This gets the history wrong. Univers came out in 1957 as did Neue Haas Grotesk. Stempel redesigned Helvetica not because of the popularity of Univers but because of its own popularity. To cope with the success of Helvetica during the 1960s and 1970s, various weights and widths were added piecemeal by Haas, Stempel and Mergenthaler Linotype. By the 1980s Stempel realized that the family was full of inconsistencies (e.g. there was both Helvetica Bold no. 1 and Helvetica Bold no. 2, but no Helvetica Medium even though the former was often called medium) and that it needed to be overhauled. The Univers numbering system was used for Neue Helvetica to distinguish it from the original Helvetica and to indicate that the new design was more consistent.]

[de Jong’s erratic history of the “ideal typeface” (pp. 11–12) goes from Gill Sans to Futura to Helvetica. Although he mentions the alphabets of Herbert Bayer and Josef Albers, he leaves out contemporary attempts by Max Burchartz, Jan Tschichold and Kurt Schwitters as well as later efforts by Bradbury Thompson, Wim Crouwel, Epps and Evans and others. He completely ignores attempts to create an ideal “ideal typeface” based on the uncial letter as exemplified by the work of Victor Hammer, A.M. Cassandre and W.A. Dwiggins. Instead he turns to “A Small Selection of Type Designers with an Eye for Detail” (pp. 12–16), a series of thumbnail sketches of Claude Garamond, William Caslon, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni, Stanley Morison, Günter Gerhard Lange, Paul Renner, Eric Gill and Max Miedinger and their typefaces.]

p. 12 “Claude Garamond was born in 1480.” 
[Scholars have not definitively established a birth date for Claude Garamond. Hendrik D.L. Vervliet, the reigning expert on 16th c. French type design, says, “The [Le Bé] Memorandum relates that Garamont [the proper spelling] completed his apprenticeship in 1510, leading people to date Garamont’s birth date around 1485–90. So early a date is almost certainly erroneous: the known printing activity of [Antoine] Augereau, to whom he was apprenticed, lies between 1531 and 1534. It seems likely that 1510 is either an error by the author or a misreading by the copyist. That Garamont’s mother, Isabeau Barbier, although old and incapacitated, was still living in 1564 (when his second wife married for [a] third time), strengthens my point. I therefore suggest that Garamont was born c.1510 and was approximately the same age as [Robert] Granjon (1513–90) and [Pierre] Haultin (c.1510–87).” See “The Young Garamont: Roman Types Made in Paris in the 1530s”, p. 169 in The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance: Selected Papers on Sixteenth-Century Typefaces, vol. I by Hendrik D.L. Vervliet (Leiden: Brill, 2008)]

pp. 12–13 “Claude Garamond is one of the founding type cutters and casters of the French Renaissance Antiqua and Italica. It was during his era that Roman capitals and Carolingian lowercase letters were brought together.” 
[Antiqua and Italica [?] should be roman and italic. Roman capitals and Carolingian minuscules—lowercase is a typographic term, not a paleographical one—were brought together by Poggio Bracciolini as early as 1403, over a century before Garamond was born!]

p. 13 “Examples of a modern Garamond in use today are Jan Tschichold’s Sabon and, even better, Sabon Next by Jean François Porchez.” 
[Neither of these typefaces is as accurate as Adobe Garamond or, “even better”, Adobe Garamond Premier Pro, both by Robert Slimbach. Sabon Next is used in Type: A Visual History; Adobe Garamond Premier Pro is used in the Vervliet book mentioned above.]

p. 13 “Caslon, a man with a versatile mind.”; “A quest for the best result.” 
[These are not headings but opening lines in paragraphs. Other sentence fragments abound in de Jong’s essay. For example, p. 15: “Very simple and highly typical.” and “The search for the best newspaper typeface.”; p. 16 “From sculptor to typographer.” and “Faceless and timeless.”]

p. 13 “In 1720, his first year of business, he produced a new typeface for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge to be used for a Bible in Arabic.” 
[this exact sentence also appears on p. 7]

p. 13 “This new typeface was the beginning of the popular style we now know as Caslon Old Style. Following this style, Caslon cut a number of non-roman and exotic styles, including Coptic, Armenian, Etruscan, and Hebrew. Caslon Gothic is his version of Old English, or black letters.” 
[this is virtually the same as the text on p. 7; the difference is “black letters” instead of “black letter”]

p. 13 “He [John Baskerville] was influenced [in his type design] by the lettering of stonemasons, as were other English type designers who developed faces we regard today as typically English: grotesques and Egyptians, which appeared elsewhere in the Industrial Revolution.” 
[Baskerville was influenced by the work of writing masters such as George Shelley and Charles Snell, not by the lettering of stonemasons. See the example of “Roman print” in The Universal Penman by George Bickham (1743). The latter part of de Jong’s statement is a misreading of the literature. See The English Lettering Tradition from 1700 to the present day by Alan Bartram (London: Lund Humphries, 1986) and The Nymph and the Grot: The Revival of the Sanserif Letter by James Mosley (London: Friends of the St. Bride Printing Library, 1999). Bartram links the scripts of the writing masters, lettering on gravestones and architecture and typefaces. Mosley traces the revival of the sans serif letter to 18th c. antiquarians and architects.]

p. 13 “In 1750, John Baskerville established a paper mill, type foundry, and printing business. He then came up with the idea of coated paper.” 
[John Baskerville of Birmingham, Letter-Founder & Printer by F.E. Pardoe (London: Frederick Muller Limited, 1975), p. 38 says that it is a mystery if Baskerville made his own paper, but that it is unlikely he was making more than a few sheets: “…he often refers to the cost of paper in terms which clearly suggest that he was buying it from a supplier.” Certainly Baskerville did not invent coated paper—nor did he use it—since that is credited to Charles Gage of Massachusetts c.1874. See No Art Without Craft: The Life of Theodore Low De Vinne, Printer by Irene Tichenor (Boston: David R. Godine, Publisher, 2005), p. 114. Baskerville also did not establish a type foundry in the generally accepted sense of the term. He was not casting type for anyone else but himself.]

p. 13 “In 1758, his famous edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost was produced, a one-man work of art, or Gesamtkunstwerk, before the term existed.” 
[Pardoe says that the Milton was printed in 1759, although announced as early as 1757. Furthermore, he refers to it as “rather disappointing”. See p. 60. The term gesamtkunstwerk, first used in 1827 by Eusebius Trahndorff, does not seem applicable to Baskerville’s edition of Paradise Lost since it is variously translated as universal artwork, comprehensive art form, total work of art, all-embracing artwork and not as a “one-man work of art”. 

p. 14 “1923. The Linotype Bulletin, XVII, No. 12, Mergenthaler Linotype Company, New York.” 
[the location of Mergenthaler Linotype was Brooklyn. See the illustration on p. 15.]

p. 15 “The edition [of Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico of 1818] comprised no more than 150 copies, although the figure of 290 has been quoted.” 
[Angelo Ciavarella, former director of the Museo Bodoniano, writes, “Secondo la lista non completa in possesso della Palatina [the home of the Museo Bodoniano in Parma], nella quale è riportato su due colonne per il periodo 1818–1820 il numero degli esemplari dati in omaggio e venduti, insieme col nome dei rispettivi destinatari, le copie risultano 150; secondo una lettera, riportata dall’Updicke [sic], ora perduta, scritta dalla Signora Bodoni a Mr. Durand l’ainé di Metz (Parma 15 nov. 1817) le copie invece 290.” See his preface to the 1965 reprinting of the Manuale Tipografico by Franco Maria Ricci, p. 10. Ciavarella says that the Palatina has an incomplete list of copies given or sold that totals 150 but that a lost letter from Sig. Bodoni to Mr. Durand claimed that 290 copies were printed.]

p. 15 “There are more than 500 Bodonis in the world. A beautiful example is Zuzana Licko’s Filosofia (1996).” 
[ignoring the judgement about Filosofia, what constitutes a “Bodoni” in arriving at this fantastic number? Is each weight counted separately?]

p. 15 “Morris Fuller Benton designed a Bodoni face for ATF in 1911.” 
[American Metal Typeface of the Twentieth Century by Mac McGrew (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books, 1993, 2nd rev. ed.) gives the date as 1910–1911.]

p. 15 “He [Stanley Morison] was in charge [at the Monotype Corporation] of designing a number of typeface families based on historical fonts, such as those by Eric Gill.” 
[This conflates Morison’s “program of historical revivals” with the typefaces (Perpetua and Gill Sans) he commissioned from Eric Gill. The latter were decidedly not historical.]

p. 15 “De Stijl, Bauhaus, Dada, and others used AG [Akzidenz Grotesk] to great effect.” 
[to make proper sense this sentence should read “De Stijl, Bauhaus, Dada and other artists used AG to great effect.”]

p. 15 repeats the quotation from Laszlo Moholy-Nagy about grotesques from Bauhaus Heft 7 (1926) that was cited on p. 11; and the quotation from Jan Tschichold about grotesques from the special edition of Typographische Mitteilungen (1925) that was also cited on p. 11. 

p. 16 “In 1916, Gill was working on sculptures for the stations of Westminster Cathedral. He was asked to design a simple, geometric typeface to be used for all signage and directions on the London Underground. For this design, he retained the classical proportions (see, for instance, the g). But for the R, he used his preferred character with its elegant down-sweeping tail.” 
[Gill did not design a typeface for the London Undergound. Railway Sans, as it is often called, was designed by his teacher, Edward Johnston. The face is usually seen as a model for Gill Sans. The “stations of Westminster Cathedral“ should be “the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral”. They were carved between 1914 and 1918.]

p. 16  “In 1949, Eduard Hoffmann, head of the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, near Basel, was planning a new grotesque typeface. His model was Schelter Grotesk, the official Bauhaus typeface…. Eduard Hoffmann knew exactly how the new typeface should look and entrusted the design to Max Miedinger, who was an expert on grotesque typefaces. His sketches were discussed, assessed, and corrected with Hoffmann and passed on to the Haas Type Foundry’s in-house punch-cutting works for casting in lead.” 
[this is virtually the same quotation as the one discussed above from p. 12.]

p. 16 “Then followed the success of Univers…. Stempel was forced to redesign the whole range in the method initiated by Frutiger, using numbers for the different members of the Helvetica family.” 
[This is a repeat of the same quotation cited above from p. 12]

p. 16 the discussion of Max Miedinger and Helvetica ends: “Type foundries kept in contact and conducted business with each other at first regionally, and then, quite soon, on an international scale. Letters were sold, copied, adapted, and released under various names, accommodating the trends of the time. If one firm had success, another wanted a piece of the pie. ¶ And to present and sell all these letters, type foundries published and produced the most splendid, magnificent type-specimen proofs.” End of essay! There is no development about the important point that foundries copied one another, a fact that is evident in the specimens in Type: A Visual History. This should have been the focus of de Jong’s essay. 

p. 17 1894. 75 Jahre, J.G. Schelter & Giesecke, Leipzig. 
“Remarkably little changed in the first 75 years of typography, printing and communication in Leipzig. For nearly a century, artisans labored there with pleasure. The foundry was established in 1819 by Johann Gottfried Schelter and Christian Friedrich Giesecke, who had previously worked for Karl Tauchnitz (see pp. 104–107). The foundation was laid in the 1790s with the construction of letterpress printing machines.” 
[this caption to two illustrations of men working at the Schelter & Giesecke typefoundry in Leipzig is problematical on several counts. 1. It conflates the foundry with the city of Leipzig; 2. it assumes the emotional state of the men, even though their faces are barely visible and no supporting evidence is provided; 3. it mentions letterpress printing machines (presumably presses) being made in the 1790s but doesn’t say if they were by Schelter & Giesecke, Tauchnitz or someone else in the city of Leipzig; 4. it equates 75 years with nearly a century; and 5. it makes no mention of what is actually occurring in the illustrations, one of which bears the label “Abteilung für Herstellung der Holzgerätschaften” and the other “Geissersaal, südlicher Teil”. In the first the men are apparently manufacturing type cabinets while the second is a view from the south of the foundry room.]

p. 20 “In 1892, they [MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan] joined 22 other foundries to form the American Type Founders Company. By the turn of the century, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, then known as the Philadelphia branch of the American Type Founders Company, entered a decline, and in 1893, after producing over 250 original decorative fonts and sets of ornaments, their last typeface was cut.” 
[The chronology from 1892 to “turn of the century” (presumably c.1900) to 1893 is sloppy. Only 18 foundries* joined together in 1892 to form ATF—the others joined in later years. See the chart at the back of Alphabets to Order by Alastair Johnston (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press and London: The British Library, 2000)—*however the 1896 American Type Founders specimen book lists only 12 foundries. This caption does not explain what is occurring in the two pages taken from 1796–1896, One Hundred Years by MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan (1896) on p. 21: the smaller image appears to show the shipping room while the large shows compositors at work. Three more images appear on pp. 22–23 but the caption only says that “On the cover of this publication is a romantic image of the typesetter at work. Other images show hand setters [handsetzer should have been translated as compositors] in Philadelphia, working in a higly concentrated manner.” The cover image is on p. 18 and it does not show a compositor but a hand caster (typemould in his left hand and ladle in his right). The images on pp. 22–23 show, from left to right, type being sorted (mainly by boys), electrotypes being made, and electrotypes being finished. Electrotypes are crucial to the design of many of the specimens in Type: A Visual History of Type and Graphic Styles, yet they are never discussed by de Jong et al. Four additional images continue on pp. 24–25 but are not commented on. They show type being imposed, a black man(!) ladling type metal, a pantograph operator and a man operating a machine that I cannot identify.]

pp. 26, 28–31 and 33 show two specimens that are beyond the chronological scope of this book: Durcken Sie Kataloge? (Schriftgiesserei Ludwig & Mayer, Frankfurt am Main, 1915) and Gill Sans by Eric Gill (The Monotype Corporation, London, 1935). The former apparently showcased Initialen zur Feder-Grotesk by Jakob Erbar (it is the only typeface shown in the 7 images from the publication reproduced here) but there is no mention of it in the caption. “The publication Drucken Sie Kataloge? (Do you print catalogues?) was meant to inform clients about new fonts and ornaments.” Feder-Grotesk is not a well-known face today but it was a pioneering thick/thin sans serif. Feder means pen in German. Erbar later went on to design one of the first geometric sans serif typefaces in the 1920s. The caption for the Gill Sans specimen sheet is equally obtuse. “Monotype Corporation publications are immediately recognizable due to their highly specific design. In the early years of the 20th Century [sic], Monotype produced original typefaces for their mechanical production process, proving that they could achieve the quality of traditional type foundries.” The time frame of this statement is sloppy as Monotype Corporation did not produce an original typeface of quality prior to Imprint in 1913 and most of the original designs for which it was famous were released after 1923.]

“About the Collection: Collecting Type Specimens” by Jan Tholenaar pp. 35–49
p. 35 “…the collection focuses on specimens produced between 1830 and 1930.”
[this is more accurate than the book title, but the Gill Sans specimen still falls outside this range.]

p. 36 1785, Specimen of Printing Types, William Caslon, London
“Shown here is a complete, eight-page proof of a type specimen of by His Majesty’s letter-founder, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, music, and floral decorations.” 
[This is the complete caption. The title of the specimen should be A Specimen of Printing Types, by William Caslon, Letter-Founder to his Majesty. The caption implies that the William Caslon who issued this specimen in 1785 is the same as the famous William Caslon for whom Caslon types are named. But William Caslon I died in 1766 and this was his son, William Caslon II. This error is compounded by the caption on pp. 38–39 which refers to additional pages from this specimen: “At the age of 13, William Caslon (1692–1766) was apprenticed to a London engraver…. He then moved to the Chriswell [sic] Street Foundry, where his son and generations after him would continue the business for over 120 years.” The history of the Caslon family’s typefounding activities are more complicated than that. Here is a synopsis from Wikipedia (derived primarily from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.: “After the death of William Caslon I, his son William Caslon II took over the Caslon Foundry business, which lasted until William Caslon IV sold the foundry to Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1792, William Caslon III sold his share of Caslon Foundry to his mother and his sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Henry. In the same year, William Caslon III purchased the Salisbury Square foundry from the recently deceased Joseph Jackson, and renamed it to Caslon & Son. In 1807, Caslon & Son was passed to William Caslon IV. In 1819, William Caslon IV sold the Caslon & Son to the new Sheffield foundry of Blake, Garnett & Co. In 1837, the Caslon Foundry became the property of Stephenson, Blake & Co. The family of William Caslon III's sister-in-law kept the main Caslon foundry running until 1937, when Stephenson Blake acquired the remaining H.W. Caslon & Sons foundry.” “Chriswell” should be “Chiswell”. More pages from the specimen are on pp. 40–41.]

p. 38 “18th- Century” should be “18th century” and “19th-Century” should be “19th century”

p. 40; p. 42 (twice); and p. 43 “20th Century” should be “20th century”

p. 42 “18th-Century” should be “18th century”

p. 42 in the list of German type designers all are given their first names except “J. Erbar” (and those who went by their initials such as E.R. Weiss). “J. Erbar” should be “Jakob Erbar”; the same is true for “E. Grasset” among the French designers who should be labeled as “Eugene Grasset”.]

p. 43; p. 45; and p. 49 “19th Century” should be “19th century”

pp. 42–45 1887, Schriftproben, Schriftgiesserei und mechanische Werkstätte J.H. Rust & Co., Vienna 
[there is no discussion of the images; non-German readers should be told what “Plakathände” are (p. 44).]

p. 67 1924, Die Hebräische Schrift, H. Berthold AG, Berlin, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Vienna, Riga
“The Bible, the best-selling book of all time. In 1924, there was a wonderful collection of typefaces available for producing the Torah and other texts in Hebrew.” 
[There must be more to say about this type specimen book and the typefaces in it. Fourteen images from it are shown on pp. 66–77. What are the names of the typefaces? Who designed them?]

p. 70 “ADOBE” should be “Adobe”

p. 80 1742, Épreuves Générales des Caractères, Claude Lamesle, Paris
“It was an honor to have one’s name (here, Claude Lamesle) set on such a lovely publication.”
[Claude Lamesle is not identified nor are the sources for his types mentioned. Where did he get his Gros Canon Italique maîgre, Numero LIX (p. 81) which looks like the italic of Jean Jannon?. Does his Civilité au Corps de Gros Romain, Numero XLIX (p. 80) derive from the civilités of Robert Granjon?]

p. 83 1748, Proef van Lettern, Izaak en Joh. Enschedé, Haarlem
[The caption explains the founding of the firm, but makes no mention of the punchcutters, especially Michael Fleischmann who cut the punches it sold (and which can be seen in several of the illustrations).]

p. 84 1768, Proef van Lettern, J. Enschedé, Haarlem
“Typefaces in Dutch, Greek, and Hebrew stand next to one another with ease in this exceptional type specimen.” 
[There are no Dutch letters, only Roman or Latin ones. This caption, like the one above, makes no mention of the punchcutters responsible for these designs.]

p. 86 1773, Les Caractères et les Vignettes, Fonderie du Sieur Delacologne, Lyon
“Design like this, featuring an attractive layout and decorative elements, made the customer’s choice easy.” 
[This is the entire caption. There is no mention of the Gros Canon Italique oeil maîgre which, as above, is reminiscent of the italic of Jean Jannon; nor of the Civilité de Cicero (p. 87); or of the obvious debt to Pierre Simon Fournier le jeune in the types used and the design of the title page.]

p. 88 1781, Proeve van Letteren, J. de Groot, The Hague
“Take note of the 0.” 
[The caption should explain why the zero is a perfect circle like a wedding ring, rather than just urging the reader to notice it. The zero used to be viewed as a placeholder rather than a numeral since it has no value. Thus, it was designed as a symbol with no intent to match the thick and thin strokes of the letters.]
[The specimen pages (pp. 88–89) are not commented upon, even though D5—as it is labeled at the bottom—looks to be one of J.F. Rosart’s faces; and the cover shows the vast influence of Fournier.]

p. 90 1787, Épreuve des Caractères, Bernard Dominique Bricx, Ostende
“This type specimen is dedicated to Central European monarch Joseph II….” [Joseph II should be more clearly identified. He was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg empire from 1780 to 1790.]
[There is no comment on the pages of this specimen, yet Rosart’s influence is evident in at least one of the pages reproduced.]

p. 93 “Romaine du Roi” should be “Romain du Roi”

p. 93 “Introduced in 1926, Bauer Bodoni is closest to the original version.” 
[This ignores the fact that there is no single original typeface by Bodoni. Both ITC Bodoni 72 and Berthold Bodoni Oldface are, in many respects, closer to types cut by Bodoni than Bauer Bodoni; the ITC design is not mentioned, even though Filosofia is.] 

p. 94 1794, A Specimen of Printing Types, Fry and Steele, London
“…all the attention here goes to the limitless possibilities of the table of ‘metal space-lines’ from which a typesetter could choose.” 
[This is worth a further explanation. Why would Fry and Steele be so proud of such an innovation? It must have made the work of compositors much easier.]
[The fact that Fry and Steele sold a Baskerville imitation cut by Isaac Moore, now often known as Fry’s Baskerville, is not mentioned, even though a version is shown as Ten Lines Pica. Thomas Bewick’s influence on the title-page vignette also goes unremarked.]

p. 99 1799, Muestras de los Punzones y Matrices de la Letra que se funde en el Obrador, Imprenta Real, Madrid
“Wonderful typefaces for missals (missal in Spanish) and other texts from a royal printer established in 1761 by Carlos III.” 
[Isn’t there more that can be said about the specimens shown on pp. 996–99? Certainly the Miñona and the Nompareil look like Fournier-influenced decorative types.]

p. 100 1802, Eerste Letterproef, D. Zimmerman, Amsterdam
“This printer from Amsterdam evidently had a lot of customers in the countryside.” 
[This statement—the entire commentary about this specimen—is based on the fact that the specimen contains woodcuts of a cow, horses, and a windmill. The Flemish-style textura on p. 100 is ignored. What did the other types that the printer had look like?]

p. 102 1809, Caractères de France, de Parme et de Florence, Jean Marenigh, Livourne
“Livourne” should be translated as “Livorno”
“The inclusion of multiple locations on the title page gave clients the idea that this was an international company.” 
[This is a misreading of the title page. It says that the printer has typefaces from France, Parma and Florence, but that he is located in Livorno. Indeed his typefaces shown here (pp. 102–103) reflect the influence of Giambattista Bodoni which is worth a comment or two.]

p. 104 1825, Proben aus der Schriftgiesserei, Karl Tauchnitz, Leipzig
“It is remarkable that a firm from Leipzig had… a Russian and a Greek alphabet.” 
[This comment betrays a lack of knowledge of Leipzig’s importance as a printing center as well as of the history of the Tauchnitz publishing firm. Many printers had Greek faces since they were necessary to print classical texts while a printer in eastern Germany would have been expected to have Cyrillic faces since Russia was nearby. More intriguing is the presence of a “Black” in Canon and Missal sizes that looks very much like the one cut by William Caslon, Jr. in 1821. The Cyrillic and Greek types appear to reflect the influence of the Didots or Bodoni.]

p. 108 properly explains that the Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgießerei und die verwandten Fächer was a trade journal established by printer/publisher Johann Heinrich Meyer. [See my comments about the same item in the online version which is misleading.]

[The typefaces shown are evenly mixed between roman and blackletter. Among the romans are many designs mimicking those found at the same time in England, the United States and France; p. 112 even has a small example (no. 12 Verzierte Antiqua) that is similar to the decorative face on one of the Maine gravestones that I posted recently while p. 113 includes Phantasieschrift No. 2 which is an Italian [also see my gravestone posts]; p. 116 shows Englische Linien, a selection of decorative rules apparently inspired by English typefoundries. None of this rates a comment.]

p. 122 1835, Premier Cahier, Fonderie de E. Tarbe, Paris
“Fine lines, and the large letters of a so-called slab serif type.” 
[More can be said about the specimens on pp. 122–123. The Lettres de Deux Points Maigres look very much like the large capitals of Firmin Didot while the Corps Soixante-Six, ou Six Cicéro and the Corps Quatre-Vingt, ou Huit Cicéro are without a doubt slab serifs. They are Egyptians (or Egyptiennes). The Italian appears on the title page.]

p. 124 1838, Ornemens et Fleurons, Laurent et de Berny, Paris
“These exuberant letters, with matching ornaments, were created in various shapes and sizes for festive printing.” 
[That’s it? This foundry was one of the ancestors of the famous Deberny & Peignot foundry. The fanciful rules with their three-dimensional appearance are worth some comment. And an inventory of the styles of typefaces—the Italian shows up again—would be useful. Some of the types shown on p. 127 are notable for their perspective (called Profilées here), a trick probably copied from English foundries, but also found in American ones of the time.]

p. 128 1838, Specimen of Printing Types, Stephenson, Blake & Company, Sheffield
[In the image the title page has “Co.” instead of “Company”]

“Seen here are several examples of typefaces and ornaments.” 
[This statement could describe nearly every specimen book in Type: A Visual History. Why not say something about the fascinating Ten Lines Sans-Surryphs [Serif] Shaded face that looks like some of the transfer types of the 1970s. Or what about the Twelve Lines Ornamented that is described in the illustration as “Metal Bodies”? Does this mean the type was made in another manner and then fastened to metal for strength? Or that the type is metal and not wood as similar letters from rival foundries may have been?]

“In one simple sheet, the letters RES are shown in 30-point Condensed Antique—a feast for the eyes.” 
[The typeface is not 30 pt. but “thirty lines” which equals 360 pts (30 lines x 1 pica). Large typefaces in the 19th c. were measured in “lines” or multiples of pica type (12 pt) which was used as a standard line size.)

p. 130 Épreuves des Caractères & Vignettes, Charles Derriey, Paris
“Majesteuse—suitable not only for a king, but also for ordinary mortals.” 
[Tell us more. Elsewhere Tholenaar extols this specimen as the most magnificent in his collection. Who was Derriey? What sets his specimen apart from the many other wildly decorative ones of the 19th century? Was his the first to be so elaborate?]
[Is the 1839 date correct? Derriey won a prize at the Exposition de 1839 according to the cover but an internal page has a reference to 1841 (p. 131) and the work looks too ornate for even this date.]

p. 136 1848, Specimen of Printing Types, George Bruce & Company, New York
“In ‘Ten-Line Pica Comic,’ the medium is presumably also the message.” [these letters are fascinating but what about the rest of Bruce’s offerings which are much more important historically? (An Italian is used on the title page.) The sample pages include references to American politics (see Alastair Johnston’s Alphabets to Order for a fuller discussion of the hidden meanings in type specimens): e.g. “Daniel Webster”, “General [Winfield] Scott”, “President [Andrew] Jackson”, “Washington”, [John] “Calhoun”, “John Q. Adams”.; the Two-Line English Ornamented No. 2 and Two-Line Paragon Ornamented No. 2 are nearly the same typeface as one shown in the Laurent & de Berny book (see “Diner”, “Jardin” and “Vendre” on p. 127; the J and N differ in the samples). These cross-pollinations are one of the principal virtues of having a book such as Type: A Visual History, yet they go unremarked.]

p. 142 1848, Épreuves de Caractères, Fonderie de Chevillon, Lyon
“Big lines supported the text.” 
[This is the entire commentary. Who was Chevillon? What was the source for his Filets Anglais? (p. 145)]

p. 146 1849, Essais Pratiques d’Imprimerie, Paul Dupont, Paris
“It would be a treat to receive such an invitation.” 
[This is the only comment. Obviously, Dupont was a printer and not a typefounder and this book is a showcase of designs for potential clients rather than of typefaces. This is an opportunity to discuss changing tastes in typographic design. Certainly the business headings are worth comparing to those in the specimen books of German and American foundries from the latter decades of the 19th century (see pp. 176, 180, 192, 197–199, 237, 258–259, 275, 278, 282, 291, 295, 303, 306, 309, 313, and 322–325).]

p. 148 1858, Specimen da Fundição de Typos, Imprensa Nacional, Lisboa
“In 1858, Portugal was connected to the rest of the world. The presentation of these letters speaks for itself.” 
[What does this mean? In 1858 Portugal abolished slave trading in Africa. Did that affect type foundries? Certainly several of the typefaces shown in this specimen are copies of faces from the United States, England or France. No. 22 (p. 149) is an outlined, shaded Italian and No. 113 (p. 149; with letters in perspective on a rippling banner) is similar to faces from the Fundição Typographica Portuense (p. 158), the Cincinnati Type Foundry (pp. 190, 242), and Farmer, Little & Co. (New York) (p. 222). The title page on p. 150 is the earliest example in Type: A Visual History of type set on a curve. This is noteworthy since 1858 is well before Oscar Harpel’s groundbreaking Typograph, or Book of Specimens (1870) and the beginnings of the Artistic Printing movement. (See or The Handy Book of Artistic Printing: Collection of Letterpress Examples with Specimens of Type, Ornament, Corner Fills, Borders, Twisters, Wrinklers, and other Freaks of Fancy by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).]

p. 154 1867, Specimens, Rand & Avery, Cornhill, Boston
“As the world changed, production and technology were portrayed in contemporary fashion.” 
[The 19th century was a time of immense change in the typefounding and printing businesses. Details of this change are worthy of comment but none are forthcoming here. This specimen from the printing (not typefounding) firm of Rand & Avery is not the only item in this book that shows industrial scenes. See also the centennial Mackellar, Smiths & Jordan specimen of 1896 on pp. 21–25, the 1923 Linotype Bulletin devoted to the history of Caslon type (p. 14) and the 75th anniversary specimen of Schelter & Giesecke (p. 17). But those are all views of typefounding. These illustrations are of printing, bookbinding, accounting, composition and proofreading. Note the pulley-driven presses (pp. 154 and 156) as well as the woman feeding a rotary press (p. 154). The typefaces shown—among them an Italian (see p. 157)—are apparently from a variety of foundries: “The specimens of type presented in the following pages of this book, numerous and diverse as they are, convey but an inadequate conception of the vast quantity and assortment daily in use in this department, and we are constantly increasing the variety and amount as new designs make their appearance from the foundries.” (The text is from an image on p. 156.)]
p. 158 1874, Specimen, Fundição Typographica Portuense, Porto
[There is no mention of the playing card images (Collecções de Signaes]. Presumably the typefounder cast pips for each suit.]

p. 160 1874, The Druggists’ Printer, 6, No. 2, United States Label-Printing Establishment, Frankford, Pennsylvania
“These labels for Rye Whiskey and Jamaica Ginger show the era’s version of niche marketing.” 
[No. This specimen is a quarterly publication issued by a printer specializing in labels. The labels shown are examples of packing not marketing. This is one of the most fascinating items in Type: A Visual History and it deserves more comment than this. The labels shown are stock labels or, as the company calls them, “shop labels”. All the potential client (a druggist not a drug manufacturer!) need do is provide their name, address and a style or pattern choice. Some of the labels use handlettering instead of type (pp. 161 and 164). There are no typefaces shown strictly as typefaces.]

p. 170 1876, Amsterdamsche Lettergieterij, Amsterdamsche Lettergieterij, Amsterdam
[This is the first appearance in Type: A Visual History of specimens with type set in ribbons and bands (here called Letter-Linten), a hallmark of the Artistic Printing movement. Attention should be called to the image on p. 171 which includes a showing of the various ornamental pieces that are needed to effect these trompe d’oeil designs.]

p. 172 1877, Specimens of Types, The Marr Typefounding Company, Edinburgh & London
“The texts set in this sample… illustrate daily life in 1877.” 
[This is an unwarranted assumption. Life where? In Edinburgh? in London? These vignettes are stock cuts and are likely older than 1877 and possibly even copied from cuts offered by other typefoundries. Many look generic and could be from American as well as English or Scottish sources. The typefaces shown on pp. 174–175 are more interesting. Several seem to be copies of American designs.]

p. 176 1878, Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst, XV. Band, Alexander Waldow, Leipzig
“These samples show unprecedented possibilities. Letterpress technology now knows no bounds.”
[The Derriey specimen on pp. 130–131 already showed what letterpress could do decades earlier. More useful would be to explain how and why letterpress was capable of such feats. Mention electrotyping, stereotyping, rotary presses, coated papers, ink rollers, aniline dyes, etc. By the way, Waldow was a printer and publisher not a typefounder and this should be made clear. Mention should also be made of the foundries that advertised in the Archiv such as J.G. Schelter & Giesecke, Bauersche Giesserei, Wilhelm Woellmer’s Schriftgiesserei and Schriftgiesserei Julius Klinkhardt.]

p. 184 1878, Specimens of Pointed Texts and Black Letters, Francis Hart & Company, New York
“Black letters, in all shapes and sizes.” 
[The title of this specimen needs more explanation than that. The samples shown are all texturas or Victorian interpretations of texturas. What else did the specimen contain? Frakturs? Schwabachers? Civilités? Here is what Theodore Low De Vinne, who started his career working for Francis Hart, says of blackletter: “The form of black-letter most approved by English readers is the pointed form, which [William] Blades says is modeled on the lower-case letters of the ‘Bible of Forty-two Lines.’ Although it has been supplanted as a text-letter by the roman, it is so identified with early English printing that it fairly deserves its generally accepted name of Old English.” (Plain Printing Types (1900), p. 294).]

p. 186 1880, Schriftproben, Schriftgiesserei J.H. Rust & Co., Vienna
“In the European market, letters were sold from Vienna to Dresden, Berne and Bremen.” 
[This was true for decades, if not centuries. Why mention those particular cities and not more important ones such as Leipzig, Frankfurt and Paris? Is it because those cities appear on the title page? They are there not as locations of branches of the Rust firm but as locations of international competitions where the firm won medals.]

p. 188 1881, Specimen Book, Cincinnati Type Foundry, Cincinnati
“An extensive range of bill-head logotypes advertised their printing work.” 
[This implies that the foundry also did printing. But showings of bill-heads (as well as menu heads, stationery heads, etc.) was done to indicate to printers—the principal customers of foundries—that stock phrases and designs were available. Similar showings can be found in the specimens from Farmer, Little & Co. (1885), pp. 218 and 220; Rudhard’sche Giesserei (1890), p. 264; Franklin Type Foundry (1892), pp. 276 and 280; Aktiengesellschaft für Schriftgiesserei und Maschinenbau (1892), p. 289; Schriftgiesserei Julius Klinkhardt (1895), p. 312; and Ditta Nebiolo & Comp. (1895), pp. 323–325.]

p. 196 1883, Specimen de Travaux Typographiques en noir et en couleurs, Imprimerie et Fonderie S. Berthier, Paris
“This is letterpress, not lithography, with hand setting and layout. In letterpress, or relief, printing, individual blocks of raised type make an impression on paper. In lithography, chemicals are placed on smooth stone or plate to create an image.” [This description of lithography is not sufficient. But even if it was, it and the preceding definition of letterpress belong in the introductory portion of this book rather than buried in the caption to a single specimen book. There is nothing unique about the S. Berthier book to warrant placing it here. Instead, there should be a discussion of why letterpress in the second half of the 19th century strove to imitate lithography and how it managed to do so.]

[The date of the S. Berthier specimen is given as 1883—and the title page does say “Avril 1883—but other pages bear the dates 1884, 1885 and 1886 (see pp. 198 and 200) in the artwork suggesting that it contains later additions. The page in the lower left on p. 197 says “Imprimé sur la Minerve.—Octobre 1886” at the bottom, visible only in the downloaded JPEG. A page not included in the book but available as a download (Q6Q92225) has the date 1887 at the bottom.]

p. 202 1883, Anglais Gravure, E. Houpied, Paris
“Is the foreign product always superior? Anglaise Gravure was all the rage in Paris.” 
[The script called Anglaise Gravure, shown in one of the images on p. 202, was the same as English Roundhand (often known as copperplate, hence the term “gravure” as part of the description). It was not only the rage in Paris. Typefounders throughout Europe copied the style. It is known in Italy as Corsiva Inglese and in Germany as Englische Schreibschrift. The 1880s were not the beginning of the interest in such things. English-style pointed pen scripts can be seen in the 1849 Essais Pratiques d’Imprimerie (Paul Dupont) on p. 147, the Épreuves Caractères & Vignettes of Derriey (1839 sic) on p. 131, a page from Schriftgießerei von Gottlieb Haase Söhne (Prague, 1835) on p. 112, and in an 1884 Proben from Schriftgiesserei Flinsch (p. 211). The interest in English engraved forms extended to decoration. For example, Fonderie de E. Tarbé (1835) offered Filets Anglais et Tremblés (p. 122) and Fonderie de Chevillon (1848) showed Filets Anglaise (p. 145). The Schriftgiesserey und Schriftschneiderey von Theodor Walbaum sold Englische Linien (decorative rules) in 1835, though they are noticeably different from the French offerings (see p. 116). Houpied’s decorative rules on p. 203 look very much like those of Laurent & de Berny (1838) on p. 124. Both are three-dimensional variants of these “Filets Anglais”.]

p. 206 1883, Stilprof, Hamlandsvånnens Tryckeri
[No location is provided for this Scandinavian printer even though Stockholm is indicated in a specimen on p. 209. The date is also suspect as several of the samples (pp. 206, 209) have the year 1893 marked on them.]

“The 19th Century [sic] was marked by both eclecticism and simplicity of style.” 
[So was the 18th century and the 20th century. This is a vapid statement.]

p. 218 1885, Specimen book [sic] of Printing Types, [&c.], Farmer, Little & Company, New York
[The title of the book is rendered incorrectly.]
“Hand setters [compositors] and typographers had no trouble finding all of these type specimens, preparing them for print, and using them.” 
[Compositor is the common English term. Hand setter is a literal translation of the German Handsetzer. The concept of the typographer is a 20th c. invention. Perhaps the authors meant typesetter? What does this sentence mean? Is it referring to those who prepared type specimens or those who used them? And does the phrase “type specimens” mean specimen books or individual showings of typefaces?]
“Scottish founders exerted a strong influence on the development of ‘transitional’ types, the bridge from ‘old style’ faces like Jenson and Garamond to ‘modern’ designs like Bodoni and Didot.” 
[This is a strange sentence, tucked into the caption for the Farmer, Little & Company specimen book where it follows sentences explaining the lineage of the foundry. None of the sample pages from the Farmer, Little & Company specimen book show transitional types. None of the partners in the foundry were Scottish. Furthermore, this sentence is incorrect in that the transitional types developed by Scottish founders appeared after the moderns of Didot and Bodoni even if stylistically they seem earlier.]

p. 232 1888, Type Specimens, James Connor & Sons, New York
[On the pages shown the firm is described as James Connor’s Sons. It should also be noted that the binding shown is clearly not the original one.]
“American Romance [sic], literally and figuratively.” 
[What does this mean? There is nothing in the Connor specimens reproduced that is unusual. The types are similar to many that appear before in Type: A Visual History and the vignettes of printing presses, lead cutters, ink knives, etc. are not romantically rendered. Why not mention that the generic newspaper mastheads offered on p. 233 are all blackletters or that the delicate flourishes offered on p. 234 were made possible by electrotyping, or explain what job printing (see p. 237) is?]

p. 243 1888, The 17th Book of Specimens, Cincinnati Type Foundry, Cincinnati
“Back in time! Two lines, two different typefaces in a fantasy world.” 
[Presumably this is a reference to the earlier specimen book from the Cincinnati Type Foundry (pp. 188–189), though the “two lines, two different typefaces” does not describe the binding title nor any of the other pages from the specimen that are displayed here. Its specimens have none of the fantasy seen in those from France and Germany. Indeed, they look quite old-fashioned for 1888.]

p. 246 1889, Letterproef, Deel II, Fantaisie-Letter, Joh. Enschedé & Zonen, Haarlem
“Design knows no borders. Seen here are fantasy letters from Netherlands-based Enschedé & Zonen.” 
[Although Enschedé describes their offerings as “fantasy letters” the samples are out-of-date, many of them copied from American sources that go back decades. The only true fantasy letters are the Initialen No. 1423 (p. 247) in which figures, fruit and landscapes are combined to form letters. One thing evident from the specimens in this book is that Dutch typefounders were not as adventurous as their French and German counterparts.]

p. p. 254 1890, Spécimen, Fonderie G. Renault Fils, Paris
“Typography is anything but boring in these prints, created in Paris for the Folies-Bergère.” 
[There is nothing in the pages displayed to indicate a connection between the Fonderie G. Renault Fils and the Folies-Bergères. The phrase “FOLIES-BERGÈRE” appears on one page (see p. 256) but so does “MOREL & CIE” and on other pages there is “HOTEL BEAU-RIVAGE” and “ED. BLIN & CIE.” These phrases are merely examples of typefaces in use, not evidence of any business connection.]

p. 262 1890, Specimen, S. Berthier & Durey, Paris
“Every picture was custom-designed and produced according to the customer’s specifications.” 
[If this sentence is referring to the images on pp. 262–263 then it is completely wrong. These images are stock cuts. They may not even be unique to S. Berthier & Durey as many such cuts were copied from those of other foundries.]

p. 264 1890, Buch- und Zeitungsschriften, Rudhard’sche Giesserei, Offenbach am Main
“An abundance of beautiful newspaper headlines and book titles.” 
[No newspaper headlines or book titles are shown on pp. 264–267. Most of these specimen pages show miscellaneous phrases as usual: e.g. “Hotel Goldene Rose Mannheim” or “Komponist”. Many are just city names. The title of the specimen book translates as  book and newspaper typefaces.]

p. 268 1891, Muster-Sammlung, Buchdruckerei und Schriftgiesserei Wilhelm Gronau, Berlin
“Large and small type sizes, indicated in ciceros and points.” 
[There is nothing unique about this. Earlier German specimens identified their typeface sizes in ciceros and points. See the Rudhard’sche specimen on pp. 264–267. Ciceros (or in the United States and England, picas) and points was an advance over the use of names such as brevier, canon, pearl and minion.]

p. 283 1892, Proben, Schriftgiesserei Ferd. Theinhardt, Berlin
[The date is suspect. Some of the samples have later dates (1894). Perhaps some pages were added later.]
“He created the Royal Grotesk in four font styles and made the Grotesk socially acceptable in Berlin. In 1908, the H. Berthold AG foundry absorbed the Ferd. Theinhardt Schriftgiesserei, and in 1918 the Royal Grotesk was sold under the name Akzidenz Grotesk.” 
[There is no showing of Royal Grotesk or Akzidenz Grotesk on the pages devoted to the Theinhardt foundry!]

p. 286 1892, Schriftproben, Aktiengesellschaft für Schriftgiesserei und Maschinenbau, Offenbach
“The title page of this 19th-Century [sic] type specimen offered a variety Neoclassical styles.” 
[None of the pages reproduced from this specimen show neoclassical type styles. Instead, they are very typical of the Artistic Printing movement of the 1880s and early 1890s. See the The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).]

p. 290 1893, Proben, Schriftgiesserei Julius Klinkhardt, Leipzig
“Klinkhardt’s samples always have their own signature, which makes them immediately recognizable.” 
[There should be more comment than this. The Mikado-Dekoration on pp. 292–293 certainly deserves a few words. How does it compare to the exotic vignettes that MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan were offering in the 1880s?]

p. 294 1893, Condensed Specimen Book, Cincinnati Type Foundry, Cincinnati
“This was the foundry’s 18th book of specimens; 17 other specimen books had previously been issued.” 
[This comment is only useful for those who cannot count. Of more interest is that this book is little changed from the ones from the same foundry shown previously in Type: A Visual History. Once again, the Cincinnati Type Foundry is living in the past. See the Klinkhardt specimen that precedes it and the Berthold specimen that follows it for contrast.]

p. 303 1894, Letterproef, Deel IV, Vignetten, Joh. Enschedé & Zonen, Haarlem
“This black hand is another beautiful vignette, this time from Haarlem.” 
[Other fists or pointing hands are shown in Type: A Visual History on pp. 129 and 296, but this is the first time they have been singled out for mention.]

p. 304 1895, Die Graphischen Künste der Gegenwart, Theodor Goebel, Stuttgart
“A message that started with initial letters like these would leave little doubt as to the writer’s intentions.” 
[Type: A Visual History does not number the individual items it displays which is a problem in trying to describe them. The comment here apparently refers to the item on p. 305, a sample of “Amoretten-Initialen” from Schriftgiesserei Benjamin Krebs. They are initials with gamboling putti. (The Q is quite ingenious with the oar of the rowing putti serving as the tail of the letter.) The comments should, in the absence of numbers, use phrases such as “on the opposite page”, “below”, “right”, etc. In any case, this comment implies that writers used typefaces in their correspondence which certainly was not true in 1895.]

[This book is not a typefounder’s specimen but a showcase or journal in which several founders as well as printing press manufacturers have provided samples of their wares. The advertisement by Bohn & Herber for their “schnellpressen” (p. 306) is fascinating. It must have been printed lithographically rather than by letterpress, given the distortion in the curved letters.]

p. 312 1895, Probe, Schriftgiesserei Julius Klinkhardt, Leipzig and Vienna
“The presentation here is overwhelming—a feast for the eyes.” 
[This statement applies to the majority of the specimens in Type: A Visual History, especially to those from France and Germany. The Klinkhardt specimen of 1895 is neither the most ornate nor the most colorful.]

p. 318 1895, Probenfolge Erstes Heft, H. Berthold Messinglinienfabrik un Schriftgiesserei, Berlin
“…After acquiring numerous other companies, by around 1900, H. Berthold AG was the biggest and most famous type foundry.” 
[Was H. Berthold AG the biggest foundry in Germany? in Europe? or in the world? Was it bigger than the American Type Founders? What are the criteria this statement is based on: number of typefaces offered, number of employees, number of plants or branches, capitalization?]

p. 320 1895, Provas de Typos, M.A. Branco & CA., [sic?] Lisboa
[“Lisboa” should be “Lisbon” for a book in English]

“‘Capitaes Diversas’—samples of various capital letters: Porto, Sines, Luz.” 
[This refers to p. 312 where a detail from a page headed “Capitaes Diversas” is shown. The detail includes the words “PORTO”, “SINES” and “LUZ” but these are not the names of typefaces. The faces are merely identified as No. 199, No. 200 and No. 201 respectively. They are incredibly retrograde for an 1895 specimen book: a Latin, an Egyptian and a rimmed and shadowed grotesque. This shows what a typographic backwater Portugal must have been in the 19th century.]

p. 322 1895, Ultime Novità, Nebiolo & Comp., Torino
“Trade and distribution by type foundries was an international affair, as evidenced by the involvement of Torino-based Nebiolo & Comp.” 
[The name on the specimen book cover is “Ditta Nebiolo & Comp.” The first part of this statement is certainly correct. It is borne out by numerous other specimen books in Type: A Visual History. There is nothing about the Nebiolo specimen that is special in this regard. The company did not have foreign offices, only branches in Rome and Milano.]

p. 326 1897, Letterproef, Gebr. Hoitsema, Groningen
“Groningen, in the northern part of the Netherlands, did not escape late 19th-Century [sic] Romanticism.” 
[It is hard to see what is meant by this statement since the type samples from the Gebr. Hoitsema specimen are, like those from the Lisbon foundry above, very old-fashioned for the time. The vignettes on pp. 328–329 are typical 19th c. sentimentalism not Romanticism (or at least not as that term is used by art historians).]

p. 330 1897, Letterproef, Deel V, Titel- & Biljetletter, Joh. Enschedé & Zonen, Haarlem
“A visual treat: Uppercase [sic] and lowercase letters and types with special accents, decorated, in perspective, with shadows.” 
[This may be a visual treat but it is not the first instance of such wonders in Type: A Visual History. See pp. 104, 110, 111, 117, 120, 121, 124, 125, 126, 127, 129, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 148, 149, 156, 157, 174, 175, 188, 189, 203, 219, 221, 222, 230, 235, 236, 237, 242, 246, 265, 266, 268, 269, 271, 273, 278, 279, 294, 314, 315, 321 and 327. Most of the Enschedé types shown on pages 330–335 are copies of types from other founders. Clearly, the Dutch founders, like the Portuguese ones, stylistically lagged behind their American, British, French and German contemporaries. This is the story the caption fails to tell.]

p. 337 1898, Letterproef, H.C.A. Thieme, Nijmegen
“In this type-specimen [sic] proof, notice the page containing a single, large capital M. Set among many other pages featuring dazzling fantasy letters, ornaments, and different colors, this is real letterpress.” 
[The entire specimen book was printed letterpress. So, what does this comment mean? That only type made before the advent of electrotyping counts as real letterpress? Or, more likely, given its size, that this M is wood type.]

p. 340 1900, Jenson Old Style, American Type Founders, Boston
“American Type Founders (ATF) was created in 1892 by the merger of 23 type foundries, including the Boston Type Foundry….” 
[ATF eventually included 23 foundries but when it was established in 1892 it was composed of far fewer. The chart in Alphabets to Order by Alastair Johnston (2000) indicates that only 18 foundries combined to form ATF that year. However, the 1896 ATF specimen book, the first to be issued by the new company, lists only 12.]
[The caption makes no mention of Jenson Old Style even though all nine images from the specimen shown on pp. 340–341 are of that typeface! Jenson Old Style was a pirated version of William Morris’ Golden type. It helped spread the Arts & Crafts ethos and aesthetic beyond the orbit of the private press world. German foundries later pirated Jenson Old Style.]

p. 343 1900, Schriftproben, Buchdruckerei H. Keller, Leipzig
“‘Zeit ist Geld’ (Time is money)—appropriate copy to illustrate commercial printing.” 
[This comment refers to an excerpt from one of the book’s pages that shows a script labeled No. 710. This is only the second instance in Type: A Visual History in which the captions reference a specific line showing in any of the type specimens. There are many more instances where this should have been done. E.g., “Faust and Gutenberg” on p. 342—an interesting pairing of the man who sold his soul to the devil and the man who pioneered the “devil’s art”.]

p. 355 1900, Vignetten in Galvanisch Koper, Lettergieterij Amsterdam, Amsterdam
“An ample selection of hands—and cigars and clogs, too!” 
[How true. And how trite. This specimen book is more interesting for the vignettes on p. 356 which show printing and typefounding activities.]

The authors of Type: A Visual History should have spent more time calling attention to the many typefaces that appear and reappear throughout the book. I have mentioned Italian and several others, but there are many more (e.g. Relievo and Arboret). Such cross-references would have given the reader a clear idea of how easy it was to copy typefaces in the 19th century as well as how quickly styles spread. And it would have shown why typefounders struggled financially, leading many to be bought out by rivals or, in the case of American foundries, to join together in a near-monopoly. Having such a plethora of type specimens together in one place provides an opportunity to make such connections. The authors have missed their chance.

The specimens in the book need more than a simple, single caption for the specimen book, trade journal or printers’ book being shown. Each page, or element excerpted from a page, should be identified in some way. Translations of terms in the images would be helpful for those who are mono-lingual. For example, p. 131 shows a page labeled “Coins” which to an English speaker would be mistaken for money instead of decorative corners. In fact, Type: A Visual History—which includes specimens in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish and Russian as well as in English—would have benefited from a glossary or list of foreign terms (e.g. zierschriften, schriftgiesserei, messinglinien, galvanoplastik, randen, signaes, demi-grasses, lames, feuille volante, punzones, boekdrukkers, and so on). 

The index is comprehensive but the page references do not distinguish between mentions of a foundry and showings of its types. That would have been helpful. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heil Hikler

The paean to Wilhelm-Klingspor-Schrift was occasioned by seeing this bookjacket for A History of Modexn Gexmany: The Reformation by Hajo Holborn (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959) a few weeks ago. I was immediately struck by its spelling. In the calligraphic portion of the title Guy Fleming, the book and jacket designer, had ignorantly substituted x for r in both Modern and Germany. How this escaped the German author is anyone’s guess, though it is not surprising that the American publisher was unaware of the faux pas. 

The mistake reminded me immediately of a book which I saw in the 1980s at Barnes & Noble. It was a biography of that famous German leader, Adolf Hikler! The designer had, in this case, mistaken a k in a blackletter font for a decorative form of t. (See the k in Wilhelm-Klingspor-Schrift to see how easy this can happen to those unfamiliar with blackletter and why Adobe/Linotype and Stephen Miggas both sought to modernize the letter.) 

In turn, the Hikler (sic) biography reminded me of Wilhelmschrift by Stephen Miggas which I had only recently come across on the My Fonts website and how appalled I was to see his solution for this problem: using the tz ligature as a substitute. Go ahead and modernize the archaic characters in blackletter fonts, but do so with a firm knowledge of the calligraphic basis behind these typefaces. And make sure you know what the characters actually are.