As most of those I am acquainted with probably know, athough I never stopped being involved and passionate about it, de facto I have been away from actual typeface design for some years.
Now I have decided to resume (or at least to try to) work on typefaces, with a certain continuity, despite the limitations of time and due to family reasons.
This goes both for digital versions of lead typefaces which I am interested in and for my own designs, of course little by little, and taking all the time needed.
For a start, and to warm up again in drawing letter forms carefully, I’ve been cultivating interest in digital versions of lead typefaces I would like to use myself. Especially american typefaces from the late nineteenth century, in particular in the vein derived and/or related to Gustave F. Schroeder’s De Vinne.
Now, to the point: besides gathering further type specimens, I would need to contextualize the history of these typefaces and the historical unfolding of the foundries which released them. I have seen there are a few resources providing historical information on them, but I would like to ask to the experts here which would be the most accurate (but also concise, as I am not doing a proper research to write about them, just to understand better their spirit in context) source for this kind of research.
I am interested in particular in John F. Cumming’s Howland and in the whole De Vinne family (and derivates).
For example, I see that apparently Howland was released in 1892, before being incorporated in ATF's catalog. But De Vinne’s patent is from 1893, so I believe it’s unlikely as Howland apparently was designed as an alternative to De Vinne Condensed as a titling face. Is there further information on this?
Many thanks in advance. Any contribution, even minimal, will be greatly appreciated. And if I can reciprocate in some way, I'll be happy to do so. :-)
For historical information on typefaces from the US, I recommend Mac McGrew’s seminal American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century. Unlike the title may suggest, it also includes faces like DeVinne and Howland that originated in the 19th century, but played an important role in the 20th.
De Vinne may have been patented only in 1893, but according to Theodore L. DeVinne, it’s the outcome of correspondence (1888–90) between him and the Central Type Foundry, and appears in a specimen dated to 1892.
“Howland was introduced by Dickinson in 1892 as a ‘companion series to DeVinne.’ The same design was called DeVinne Condensed (No. 3) by Keystone Type Foundry, but differs from the DeVinne Condensed issued by other sources.” – McGrew
McGrew’s book looks great, I wonder if shipping costs would be high from the US, or if they offer a PDF eBook version. I’d use it mostly for consultation anyways.
I kinda guessed what you state about De Vinne, so they’re more or less contemporary in their release. I was also aware of the information you quoted from McGrew, and of course De Vinne Condensed is a proper weight of the De Vinne family. Both interest me, although I decided to start from Howland because it‘s simpler (having a single weight) and its crudeness/weirdness of forms pairings fascinated me. But I am intentioned to work on De Vinne as well. :-)
So Howland is originally from the Dickinson Type Foundry (in Boston). I wonder if some Dickinson specimen books have been digitized or are available online, since all the material I have found so far is just from ATF and other foundries.
In German-speaking countries, these styles went under names like Romanisch, Römisch, Romana, etc., in addition to Elzevir. In 1885, Albert Anklam cut capitals for what became Römische Antiqua (Genzsch & Heyse, 1888). They were acquired by DeVinne and used as reference in negotiations with the Central Type Foundry in 1888/90. – Bertheau: Buchdruckschriften im 20. Jahrhundert. One of the more popular series was Schelter & Giesecke’s Romanische Antiqua, or Anker-Romanisch, first cast in 1889. Its halbfett (1895) is based on De Vinne.
Yes, I was aware of the general descendancy from the Elzevir tradition and their lineage from France (and somewhere I saved the old discussion on Perrin et al.), also because with Antonio Cavedoni we keep being interested in the specific form the Elzevir style took in public lettering here in Italy.
But as far as De Vinne goes, the style, treatment and many letter forms becomes very specific, and then quintessentially american. Romana has always been a favorite, very refined compared to De Vinne, and of course it would be wonderful at some point to tackle Romanische Antiqua (whose italian counterpart by Nebiolo was called Raffaello).
But if I do not stay focused I am dead, so it’s Howland for now, then De Vinne/Romana. :-)
The Benjamin Krebs Nachf. foundry in Germany had a face that’s very similar to Howland, named Reklame-Elzevir, c.1896.
As scans go, I am pretty much covered, except for diacritics, which scarcely appear in the showings as these are in English. Dang Krebs Nachf., not even a dieresis! :-)
The De Vinne typeface was a successful compromise between two established forces competing for the soul of the emergent mass-market popular magazine.
The foundry man claimed it for commercial interest, as a business venture captivating the consumer with visual spectacle, in the manner of brash job-printed flyers and bills larded with exotically dimensionalized fonts, or lithographed posters with even more ornately flourished lettering. St. John recognized the need for something new and eye-catching, and Schroeder's (not Werner, as De Vinne had mistakenly believed) adaptation provided that, with the quiet personality which the features of Elzevier possessed as a light text type becoming quite loud in the guise of a bold display face, the upper case features going so far as to impress DeVinne as "grotesques". It was a marriage of Parisian cachet with Yankee brashness. Such commercial interest found its foothold in the advertising of mass magazines, which during the 1890s became an experimental laboratory for marketing communication.
De Vinne claimed the magazine for typography and idealism, the editorial well his stronghold, calling for fonts of dignity and simplicity used in the understated manner of quality book and traditional magazine printing; but while he railed against the usual late Victorian suspect of profuse ornament, he too needed something new, for there were plenty of beautiful, simple, functional Victorian faces he could have turned to, but they had been around awhile, and their virtues had palled.
Although Mr De Vinne was not entirely satisfied, he couldn't argue with the instant and immediate success of his eponymous face. A year later (1894) he began working more closely with a typefounder, Linn Boyd Benton, on a commission for the Century magazine, of which he was publisher. The strict demeanour of the resulting Century Roman was more to his taste, and the heft of its hairlines more to his ease (he was 66 at the time); the face would not become popular, although its descendants would. The Century family branched out with Century Expanded (1900), Century Oldstyle (1906), and Century Schoolbook (1918).
In Devinne and Century, there is a gradual movement away from the refined detail of the Scotch Modern, which had been the favored style of everyday text type in the US for 60 years, and the more recent but similar in effect Old Style, towards a heavier impression, matching the tenor of the times which found its most forceful expression in William Morris. Like De Vinne, Morris was in his sixties in the nineties, so their beef with fine type may well have been age-related.
Thanks immensely for sharing. Of course I will make sure to quote you in case I write some brief text about the digital versions I am attempting. I’m saving these for reference, will read them later.
An interesting note: The Ladies Home Journal is basically unknown in Italy, while I realized that together with the Reader’s Digest (for men) was one of the popular magazines with the largest print run, while the Reader's Digest has had an italian edition since the late 1940s up to a few years ago, which my father subscribed to, so italian readers are well familiar with. :-)
Now, more bits of information (or further specimen scans) of Howland would be awesome, if someone has additional sources.
LOL, this should be framed. — Expect no less from your british-canadian insight.
Is “cachet” a loan word in Italian?
An aside: Along with the 1893 patent date (a year after De Vinne’s release), it’s interesting that it was filed by Palmer & Rey in San Francisco rather than Central. I don’t think I’ll ever get a handle on all the American firms around the time of the ATF amalgamation.
As far as the glyph coverage in scans, what I am mostly missing are diacritics, and european accents, since these were unlikely to be found in the lines set in English.
Although my initial work is not geared towards commercially releasing it, if the fees are reasonable and there are useful specimens, that would be a great help.
Is your old typographica email still working? If not, send me your email and I’ll get back to you.
@Thomas Phinney: Thanks! It’s a great motivation to have your interest. :-)
I would also add the relationship extends to other more decorative and titling faces of the era. De Vinne Ornamented looks related to Columbus, and I have been thinking about you while I started this.
 is also drawn pretty bad.
I am placing the larger form of [O] and the [R], [M] adherent to the Elzevir forms in Stylistic Set 1.
The master is mostly based on point sizes 42-48, and meant to be used in titling in 48-60 pts. I could do a version for sizes 72 and above, but my priority would be a text version based on 8-12 point size (and maybe a subtitling one based on 18-24 point size).
Here you can see three versions. The one on the right is faithful to the original, the one on the left is harmonized, the middle one is midway (and the one I have chosen for now).
Yes, the “red” version seen in Howland seems pretty weird/unusual—yet it matches the original. However, the “blue” treatment is more consistent with virtually all the other DeVinne family members / styles I see in McGrew’s book.
Personally, I would go with the “blue” version if I were doing this revival. (I don’t think there is a single right answer, though!)
Yes, you’re right. But since I wish to stay as faithful as possible to the original, and I do not see it as a revival, I think I will just harmonize and make gentler the “dissonant” (rather crude) glyphs.
That original /e/, on the other hand, is really unappealing to me...
«Here you can see three versions. The one on the left is faithful to the original, the one on the right is harmonized, the middle one is midway (and the one I have chosen for now).»
@Craig Eliason: Thanks for the consideration, really pertinent. Now that I reconsider this, I will attempt to stick as close as possible to the original, avoiding broken points in the counters. I have to say I find the term "revival" too vague, and in general it gives me the idea of an interention bringing substantial changes to the original design, or even an interpretation, a new design.
While my goal is to get as much as possible into the forms and give back the feeling of the original typeface, and of the period.
You are right about my use of the term "crude": my english can be flawed; I wished to say that the form has some unbalance and disharmony of curves, which is not present anywhere in the rest of the glyphs (except maybe in [g] and a bit in  and ).
Of course I do not know what Cumming was thinking when designing it, but it does not seem to stem for a particular rationale. Clearly Howling has these pleasant inconsistency, but a few glyphs are not so carefully finished (overshoot is often lacking in larger sizes), so my goal is mostly to armonize these but not change the design. I could just keep more harmonized forms using stylistic sets.
What makes the [e] unappealing to you? I agree the small counter seems exaggerate but it’s one of the features I like more in condensed versions of these "De Vinne" influenced styles.
I just love the text of this 1907 specimen. «Its greatest defect: does not line exactly with Roman» but «Serviceable for the subheadings».