Historical background of De Vinne, Howland and other related late 19th century american typefaces

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    • very close to the finished typeface, not a lot changed between this and the final version. (Although that “C” looks a bit wider.)
    I was thinking that all of the sketch looks not only wider, but heavier. It seems a bolder weight, so maybe he started with the idea of a bolder weight for Columbus, then decided to make it lighter.
  • Columbus —> Columbian. :-)


  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,349
    edited January 8
    LTypI  :)

  • LOL, I did not know of this. :D
  • I wonder if De Vinne had a percent glyph. So far the only one I have encountered is in this page, but it looks large – out of proportion. Jacob Casal sent me a list of the glyphs which were there in the lead series he has access to, and the percent was not there (but I suspect some glyphs could be missing).
    At any rate, so far I based the percent on this version, I just resized it to fit the numerals height, what’s your opinion? I like to strive for historical accuracy, but here I am not sure.

    That percent is a bit strange also because it does not follow the slant of "De Vinne Italic": may it be that it was a generic percent, or belonging to another typeface?



    My own revived design:


  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,349
    edited January 9
    Foundry types, as far as I am aware, did not have symbols or mathematical characters made specifically for them. Fonts usually only had upper- and lowercase, figures, basic punctuation, an ampersand, and sometimes alternate or swash characters. Instead, you had to get generic sorts for other characters. (Although, sometimes there were sets designed to match the most popular faces.) In the old ATF catalogs, these were all listed in the "typographic accessories" section.

    Part of the fun of doing a revival is imagining how they would have looked had they included them.
  • Foundry types, as far as I am aware, did not have symbols or mathematical characters made specifically for them. Fonts usually only had upper- and lowercase, figures, basic punctuation, an ampersand, and sometimes alternate or swash characters. Instead, you had to get generic sorts for other characters. (Although, sometimes there were sets designed to match the most popular faces.) In the old ATF catalogs, these were all listed in the "typographic accessories" section.

    Part of the fun of doing a revival is imagining how they would have looked had they included them.
    Thanks! Of course. So I have the suspect this percent glyph was a generic glyph (also given it’s out of proportion). Then I might just re-design it, I am not sure the slanted option is the best.
  • Combining Columbus with De Vinne Bold (in its German, more polished late version, from Schriftgiesserei Emil Gursch: Fette Elzevir), shows very nicely Ihlemburg’s hand: :-)


  • Working on the Condensed. (Not so) surprised to see it consistently differs in some design elements from the original Roman. The Condensed samples I am using range from 1893 to 1907.


  • De Vinne Condensed. Formal differences between Cleveland Type Foundry (and in general soon to be ATF “official” versions) and a later cut from Barnhart Bros. & Spindler (1907).


  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,087
    Which do you prefer, and why?
  • Which do you prefer, and why?
    The first one, which is the one cut from most foundries, is largely faithful to the Roman (/4 is an exception, /7 has a curved stem, but it shows they were conscious decisions… or so it seems). The BB&S version is a sort of a deviation. But it gets the form of /4 more in line with the original Roman. I am considering to keep the BB&S forms which deviated more in a Stylistic Set, and do this for other period variants, so to speak. I wish to capture the period “zeitgeist”. :-)
  • BB&S also has many exaggeratedly narrow lowercase forms. They could almost fit in the width of the Extra Condensed. I will check when I will start on that one. :-)
  • De Vinne’s “calibrated” inconsistencies are delightful. They show a freedom hardly seen in most of nowadays commercial designs.


  • Most of these typefaces whatever the foundty or the name are, also and in first place, derivated of pen and ink styles typical of that era. So its also a good idea to have a look at penmanship manuals to find the real sources. Mostly from England years 1800 if you want a quick giess
  • Most of these typefaces whatever the foundty or the name are, also and in first place, derivated of pen and ink styles typical of that era. So its also a good idea to have a look at penmanship manuals to find the real sources. Mostly from England years 1800 if you want a quick giess
    Thanks Pablo. Do you have a generic source to point me to? I am curious, as aside from "constructed" examples I have hardly found possible inspiration for the american, earlier, revisitation of elzevir romans in caligraphic sources. Lettering, yes, but calligraphy?
  • Claudio PiccininiClaudio Piccinini Posts: 605
    edited January 17
    As an example, from an italian calligraphy booklet, but this is late (1930s).
    I mean, it’s always lettering, more than “penmanship" intended as “running” calligraphy.



  • I have examples in my computer but im in the cellphone. I will recommend to took for english penmanship from 1850 to 1950 aprox. Also from english lettering- artist from any year. I will try to post some more concrete examples as soom as i get back to thw computer
  • I have examples in my computer but im in the cellphone. I will recommend to took for english penmanship from 1850 to 1950 aprox. Also from english lettering- artist from any year. I will try to post some more concrete examples as soom as i get back to thw computer
    Thanks much. So you think the influence which brought to American types like De Vinne (and all the subsequent related ones) came at least partly from Britain? I was thinking more of a reflection upon continental so called “elzevirs”, like Genzsch & Heyse’s Römische Antiqua, whose capitals were drawn and shown first in 1885.
    Also, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan’s Ronaldson already has elements which would contribute to the formal characteristics of De Vinne (although the “signature” letters like /M, /R and /C are obviously different).
  • The Römische Antiqua capitals are said (by Genzsch & Heyse in their own publications) to have been inspired by letters that Genzsch & Heyse’s director Emil Julius Genzsch saw on a visit to the Vatican Library. Nevertheless, I don’t know what it was that Genzsch was looking at in the library, exactly. Note that the Römische Antiqua caps were probably cut by the engraver Albert Anklam. I am not sure if Anklam was with Genzsch in the library (indeed, my hunch is that he was not), so I don’t know how Genzsch would have communicated what he saw to Anklam, exactly. Genzsch was not a “designer” in our understanding of the term, but it is still conceivable that he could have made some kind of sketches in the library, and explained these to Anklam. Photography is also conceivable.

    The lowercase letters of Römische Antiqua were added by the then still rather young Heinz König, whose father was a printer and somewhat locally famous lithographer. By all accounts, König spent his youth examining mediaeval manuscripts, and his first typeface designs were for ornamental medieval-style initials, and then he did a revival of a decorative blackletter design from a few decades earlier. The Römische Antiqua lowercase was probably the first lowercase that König seriously drew. I suspect that he was not influenced by British writing manuals at all. But I do suspect that he was influenced by other roman typefaces that could have been influenced by British writing manuals. I touch on all this a very little bit here.

    König almost certainly would have been directed by Genzsch to look at successful old-style romans that were on sale already in Germany. The most famous of these was a series of somewhat spindly old-style fonts Genzsch & Heyse imported from Miller & Richard in 1868, but they might have looked at Johann Christian Bauer’s Neue Kirchenschrift, from earlier in the 1860s.

    According to G. W. Ovink, Genzsch & Heysea cquired matrices of “‘Romain Ancien’, cut by the Aubert frères and by Huchot” for Deberny in Paris. But I would have to check where that happened in relation to Römische Antiqua’s timeline (I mean, I can’t recall at the moment if Genzsch & Heyse imported this before making Römische Antiqua, or afterwards). Genzsch & Heyse expanded the Romain Ancien in-house, too, adding 14, 20, 24 and 32pt sizes.
  • Oh, @Dan Reynolds, thank you very much! These considerations, supported by your research background, are very interesting.
    So it is documented that the lowercase of Römische Antiqua were drawn by Heinz König?
  • Oh, @Claudio Piccinini, yes! It is documented that the lowercase letters of Römische Antiqua were drawn by Heinz König. I don’t recall of the top of my head when Genzsch & Heyse first began to publish the attribution, but they probably were doing this regularly by the publications about their company’s history that they were printing between 1903 and 1908 (after König had already become a ‘successful’ type designer for other foundries).
  • Oh, @Claudio Piccinini, yes! It is documented that the lowercase letters of Römische Antiqua were drawn by Heinz König. I don’t recall of the top of my head when Genzsch & Heyse first began to publish the attribution, but they probably were doing this regularly by the publications about their company’s history that they were printing between 1903 and 1908 (after König had already become a ‘successful’ type designer for other foundries).
    I am in awe for the research you are doing. As I progress in my De Vinne digital version(s) and search maybe I will get in touch. Should you need anything on the italian front, just contact me & I’ll see what I can do. :)
  • Claudio PiccininiClaudio Piccinini Posts: 605
    edited January 19
    Reflecting on De Vinne’s design goals at the time (late 1890s — early 1900s):

    — Emphasis in text through width masters (Regular, Condensed, Extra Condensed): This is an interesting concept, as it’s hardly used nowadays, not only in advertising or commercial graphics, but even more so in books.

    — Being “a useful substitute for title type. Selected for emphatic words or phrases in paragraphs of old style that call for more distinction than that of italic or small capitals but not for bold display”: a further exploration in the above quality, which explains the use of the inconsistencies in the design, while keeping it more or less adherent to the model of “elzevirs” or “neo-roman” types, which discarded the uniformity of more modern serif designs in the lineage of Didot and Bodoni (e.g. Century was one of the favorite designs of Theodore De Vinne, and it incorporated elements to increase distinction compared to the excessive homogeneity and “vertical quality” of the didone and bodonian types). 
  • I am designing numerals across the versions of De Vinne, and I have found that the percent sign I showed previously was actually part of the lead font. This can be seen in this ATF showing which also shows fractions and a /¢.
    But as far as fractions go, I am undecided to which degree I should be “philological”: these designs seem to have this “overlapping” quality in order to fit the same width, but they get quite cramped in small sizes, and honestly I think they would look a lot better with proportional width. What do you think?

    Also, the /¢ is a bit weird, inclined as it is — maybe I could keep the original as an alternate and go with the more conventional version i designed, which is not slanted?

    All opinions and advice are much appreciated! :-)


  • Bumping this to have some opinions as I’m trying to decide about the fractions. :-)
  • I finally found the british lettering artist. It was Cecil Wade. He wrote 3 books. I have 2 of them an they are brillant.
    I also found this great article with much more info about all british lettering from that period. Suggested reading for all lettering lovers
    https://typographystudies.com/2012/10/copybooks/
  • Personally, I agree with your assessment that the fractions look a bit cramped. Perhaps you could make it work, but in refining it you would probably have to deviate from what it is here to do so. I know you mentioned some time ago the bold was drafted and cut by different people, is it a similar case here? It is neat, but even amidst fractions alone it where the numerator is not 1 the fraction is out of place due to how the numbers shove into each others space.
    As for the /¢, I actually like it and can see what they were going for in their advertising it next to the other characters with slashes, perhaps due some tests with it next to /$ and some numbers and see what you like best.
    @PabloImpallari Neat, I own a copy of The Puffin Book of Lettering, nice little book.
  • Personally, I agree with your assessment that the fractions look a bit cramped. Perhaps you could make it work, but in refining it you would probably have to deviate from what it is here to do so. I know you mentioned some time ago the bold was drafted and cut by different people, is it a similar case here? It is neat, but even amidst fractions alone it where the numerator is not 1 the fraction is out of place due to how the numbers shove into each others space.
    As for the /¢, I actually like it and can see what they were going for in their advertising it next to the other characters with slashes, perhaps due some tests with it next to /$ and some numbers and see what you like best.
    @PabloImpallari Neat, I own a copy of The Puffin Book of Lettering, nice little book.
    Thanks much for the advice. Yes, given I did not get opinions I was inclined to treat the fractions in a conventional way. So far this is the only example I have found, being from ATF it can be considered “official”, as ATF grouped later on most of the things done by other foundries (which it incorporated after 1892), but it does not make much sense to make them so cramped just to be philological. They do not need to be monospaced, and even so, I could just make them a bit larger in terms of advance width.

    As for the /¢ I will keep the original as an alternate. All of the currency symbols are not inclined, and I am pretty sure the /¢ was added afterwards, as early sample uses from the Inland Printer use /$ and just use /c as the cent.
  • I finally found the british lettering artist. It was Cecil Wade. He wrote 3 books. I have 2 of them an they are brillant.
    I also found this great article with much more info about all british lettering from that period. Suggested reading for all lettering lovers
    https://typographystudies.com/2012/10/copybooks/
    Thank you Pablo. But can I see an example of what you consider something which could have been of influence on De Vinne? Wade was born in 1896, he published these books in mid-XX Century, while De Vinne could have been influenced merely by 19th century sources.
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