Type Identification (Historical)

Fernando DíazFernando Díaz Posts: 133
edited February 2017 in History of Typography
Hi everyone,

I need to identify this typeface from a print in 1808. It's from the first printing office in Brazil (Impressão Régia).
The printing office was brought from Europe in that same year, some say that the typeface and the press was sent from England. On this piece the typeface didn't have a 'W', they use 'VV' instead.

Any ideas? The Q, J, g, 4, look particular.


Thank you!

PS: Here is the whole document:


  • Should have posted it on History of Typography, but can't seem to do that now, sorry.
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 239
    edited February 2017
    There are two typefaces here.

    Body text is Elzevir 14pt. Some subtitles also use it.

    Main titles and some subtitles use a transitional font without tilde or cedilla —booth are made with other pieces. It is an transitional English typeface from early 1700s also used in books printed in Portugal. Unhappily I cannot find its name.

    Although this is the first book printed by Imprensa Régia, the very first printed in Brazil is from 1747, composed in Rio de Janeiro under especial license by Inquisition.
  • Fernando DíazFernando Díaz Posts: 133
    edited February 2017
    Igor, thank you for your answer. Yes, I should have said that Impressão Régia was the first to publish a newspaper, it was not the first printing office, sorry.

    Where can I find a type catalogue with the original Elzevir?
    How do you know it's 14pt?
    What do you mean by 'both are made with other pieces'?
    Is there any book or articles about the typography of Imprensa Régia?

    This information is for an upcoming book, about typography in Montevideo,
    Thank you!
  • I don’t know what these types are, but they are not English types. Igor's claim is incorrect, yet I can see how he came to it. These types' relationship to "Elzevir" has nothing to do with the 17th-century Dutch types, but rather with their similarity to the loose-fitting “Elzevir Revival” types that became highly popular in France from the mid-1840s (beginning with the types made by Francisque Rey for the Lyon printer Louis Perrin) and into the early 20th century. (In the U.S. these types were known as "French Elzevir.") But the types you show are only coincidentally like the later French ones. I would suggest you look at Portuguese type specimens of the time. This is coarse work, with some oddly wide capitals (A, E, F, and especially M), yet the lowercase, for all its oddities, is even in color.

  • Fernando DíazFernando Díaz Posts: 133
    edited February 2017

    Thanks for the advice. It's hard to find Portuguese type specimens, but I will try.

    You think that there are several different typefaces mixed in the uppercase?
    Thank you

    PS: The 'K' is very particular, and there seem to be two types of '2'
  • In the larger type at the bottom of the second image, the M has reversed contrast. That might be a clue that could help you find the specific face if specimens can be dug up.
  • igor, thank you for this information, is extremely valuable to me.

    I would appreciate the PDFs so I can quote them on my investigation.
    (you will be thanked in the book :smile: )

    I'm specially interested in:
    •Hallewell and the reference to the purchase of 28 cases of english type
    •Hallewell and the Elzevir 14pt reference

    Many thanks!

    PS: Hopefully with help from other TypeDrawers we will be able to identify it.
  • Igor, thank you for this very impressive piece of bibliographic research. Searching for the identity of this “Elzevir” type may prove difficult. In early 18th-century England, “Elzevir” became a generic name for any number of types, without reference to their specific origin or to their Dutch namesake. What it meant in the English book trade was something like “small and crisp.” James Mosley, a more serious historian than any of us, had long been curious about how and when the term came into use, and published this interesting entry on his “Typefoundry” blog:


    It’s difficult to believe the text roman is English, despite the circumstantial evidence. It doesn’t look like anything English I have ever seen, especially with such primitive capitals. (Could it have been apprentice work being sold off for cheap?) The italic, on the other hand, might have been cast from some very old matrices, though some of the late 18th-century Spanish typefounders (Merlo, Espinoza, Monfort, et al.) had revived similar forms—a curious stylistic regression after a more progressive and inventive period.

  • Thank you, George.
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 239
    edited February 2017
    Thanks, Dino. Your information is valuable. You probably know that Paulo Heitlinger designed a font named João Quinto which is based on Villeneuve's types. He also reproduced the adapted cedilla and tilde, although he did this even for lowercase.

    Regarding the titling face, I believe many press offices kept using older all-caps sets fulfilling the line size. These types with no room for diacritics were quite common during 1600s as most books were wrote in Latin —so no diacritic was needed. Later, instead of purchasing new sets just for titles, printers chose to use the existent ones with adaptations. If this is correct, the title of this 1808 book used a set not purchased from England in early 1800s.

    Regarding the body face, D. João VI's rush was an invitation to chaos and is quite possible the press material had became a mess. Anyway, I don't think this exact typeface is a mixture. It is very coherent through the whole book. The same could be said about the italics. What seems possible is to have roman and italic from different fonts use in body size. In other hand, we agree about mixtures for the other sizes, as the odd M and different R shows.

    Still trying to identify it, there are several similarities with many typefaces from 1700s and even 1600s. As Scott-Martin already argued, it is not a legit Elzevir, although it follows part of its design. I tried to track Dutch heritages into England (from Fell types and later development) and also into France. One of my clues is the larger bowl of lowercase a, clearly departed from old style types.

    The more similar font I found is 1776 Independence, by GLC. This is based on an early Caslon (!) used in USA. But it is just similar, not the real thing. Other similar fonts, also by GLC, are 1786 GLC Fournier and 1790 Royal Printing. But the criminal is still unknown. 

    The italic resembles 1589 Humane Bordeaux, although this "old" design for italics lasted well into 1800s, what makes it less informative about dates.

    I made a folder in Dropbox with a set of materials about the "Imprensa Régia mystery".

    Fernando: the Hallewell book is partially digitized and available online on Google. If you need a full copy, try this store of used books. This other book is also a reliable reference. In Porto Alegre there is a newspaper and magazine museum with printed material since 1822. It is closed now, but may be a good visit next time you come to Brazil. Please PM me for any further question.
  • This is all very interesting, thank you Dino, Igor and the rest for your valuable help.
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