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

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  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Hi everyone!
    I have a question for the american members (but not only for them): in your opinion, what makes De Vinne a quintessentially “american” typeface?
    In each period in typographic history typefaces aesthetically reflect their background of origin, and De Vinne strikes me as american, in the sense that I could not mistake it for a typeface produced, say, in Germany or in France (only to mention two of Europe's most prolific country, type-design wise, at the turn of the century).

    Thanks much!
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,686
    edited February 2021
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    Perhaps because it was at one time so popular in the U.S. If you look at printed media from the decades around 1900, it was everywhere. So, it becomes "american" by association.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Perhaps because it was at one time so popular in the U.S. If you look at printed media from the decades around 1900, it was everywhere. So, it becomes "american" by association.
    Do you think it happens by mere association? Being Italian I have been exposed very little to De Vinne, regardless, as I approached it and familiarized with them, these american types convey a distinct “american flavor”.
    And of course Richard Isbell’s Americana can be seen as an accurate, “homogenized” new take on De Vinne as “a style”.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Hi! I’d love to have some opinions on this "americanity” question. First and foremost from american designers. :-)
  • Claudio Piccinini
    Claudio Piccinini Posts: 677
    edited February 2021
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    I am also wondering where I could source a bit more specimen pages for De Vinne Extra Condensed. So far I have gathered a 1894 sample from John Ryan Foundry, a 1895 one from Cleveland, some Keyston samples from 1906 and 1910, and a 1900 catalog from ATF. I am missing (except for small sizes), above others, an uppercase /X.
  • marcomastri
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    Hello Claudio, no uppercase X, but do you already have this?

    Marco
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Hello Claudio, no uppercase X, but do you already have this?

    Marco
    Hi Marco, welcome to Typedrawers! :-)
    Thanks much, as I said, I was not sure but now I see the specimen pages are different from the 1900 ATF catalog. I’ll get in touch soon for sure.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    BTW, I found a 18 point sample, good enough to guess extrapolate the larger sizes, but if someone has other sources for /X /Y and /Z they’re welcome!


  • Thomas Phinney
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    The 1912 ATF specimen book has a 30 point X. Like the 18 point version you show, it fails to compensate for the optical illusion that the thin diagonal crossing over is offset inwards. Drop me an email reminder and I can see about scanning it for you.

    The 1923 ATF specimen book drops the Extra Condensed style entirely.
  • George Thomas
    George Thomas Posts: 638
    edited February 2021
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    McGrew's "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century" has a complete showing of the font, 36pt reduced at 64%. Despite the book title, there are fonts in the book which were from the 19th century but continued to be sold in the 20th century.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    The 1912 ATF specimen book has a 30 point X. Like the 18 point version you show, it fails to compensate for the optical illusion that the thin diagonal crossing over is offset inwards. Drop me an email reminder and I can see about scanning it for you.

    The 1923 ATF specimen book drops the Extra Condensed style entirely.
    Thank you *very* much Thomas, that is very kind of you.
    Yes, that is a problem with some De Vinne letters, that in some way adds to the quirkiness/informality of the face. Most letters are largely represented in the specimens I have, but of course some less recurring ones are harder to find, especially in the larger sizes. With the Roman it has been easier, as I was able to track down a few foreign pages as well, but the Extra Condensed is less common. :-)

    McGrew's "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century" has a complete showing of the font, 36pt reduced at 64%. Despite the book title, there are fonts in the book which were from the 19th century but continued to be sold in the 20th century.
    Thanks George! Do you have a picture showing how the types are presented within the book? I see it’s quite expensive and postage will be costly as well, so before considering to purchase it, I’d like to see how the insides are.
  • George Thomas
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    General layout of the book.

  • Claudio Piccinini
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    General layout of the book.

    Very cool, thank you. The text itself makes it a “must have”, I should say. :)
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    P.S. And as shown, "De Vinne Extra Compressed", sold by BB&S, is – de facto – a design of its own, to some degree.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Hi everyone! I am starting to finalize the De Vinne digital version and I wished to ask for some advice.

    For the original family, for now I decided to go with the Regular, the Condensed and the Extra Condensed (still working on the last two) and after some thought I thought I’d really love to make a faithful digital version of the "Text" version as well (commissioned in 1898 to Frederic Goudy by Central Type Foundry).

    Does anyone have some samples of that? Aside from the scans I did from the 1906 ATF catalog (which miss some key glyphs) I was wondering where I could find more, considered this text cut was very little used, compared to its hugely popular semi-display original forerunner.

    I recall I found a lower resolution sample of the page from which Luc Devroye sourced this scan, but I can’t seem to find it anymore (and besides it would be great to have it scanned in high resolution).

    Many thanks in advance!
    Claudio

  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,686
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    That's from the book Frederic Goudy, by D.J.R. Bruckner (1990), p. 122. There are no other samples.

    The only other mention of the face in the book is on page 45:

    The face he later called Display Roman dates from that same period, as does his De Vinne Roman, a book face commissioned by Walter Marder of the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis who wanted a book face based on a widely used display type made by Theodore De Vinne.

    Here's a 1200 dpi scan with the background dropped out.


  • Claudio Piccinini
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    That's from the book Frederic Goudy, by D.J.R. Bruckner (1990), p. 122. There are no other samples.

    The only other mention of the face in the book is on page 45:

    The face he later called Display Roman dates from that same period, as does his De Vinne Roman, a book face commissioned by Walter Marder of the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis who wanted a book face based on a widely used display type made by Theodore De Vinne.

    Here's a 1200 dpi scan with the background dropped out.

    You’re awesome, Mark – thanks a million! <3 , I still have to settle down and write you in peace of mind.
    Our correspondance, when i was working on that other lead typeface, was interrupted abruptly last July and I would have not imagined such a turn of events.

    It’s clear that I owe, not only to you but also to Thomas Phinney and Jacob Casal, at least a license of De Vinne when it’s finished.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    P.S. Is the Display Roman mentioned by Bruckner an original Goudy face, or also related to the De Vinne "lineage"?
    Here’s a taste of the De Vinne Roman Text, which is coming together really nicely so far.
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    P.S. It’s amazing to see how a few reproductions can make the line art degradate.
    Here’s a comparision between the 2400ppi scan I did of size 12 from an ATF catalog, and Mark’s scan of the Bruckner book (where, arguably, the sample was reproduced from an original source as well).

     
  • Helmut Wollmersdorfer
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    @Claudio Piccinini the specimen book

    The roman and italic printing types in the printing house of Theodore L. De Vinne & Co., 12 Lafayette Place
    by De Vinne, Theodore Low, 1891, New-York : The De Vinne Press

    contains samples of Elzevir used by De Vinne printing house.

    https://archive.org/details/romanitalicprint00devi/page/48/mode/2up

  • Claudio Piccinini
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    @Claudio Piccinini the specimen book

    The roman and italic printing types in the printing house of Theodore L. De Vinne & Co., 12 Lafayette Place
    by De Vinne, Theodore Low, 1891, New-York : The De Vinne Press

    contains samples of Elzevir used by De Vinne printing house.

    https://archive.org/details/romanitalicprint00devi/page/48/mode/2up

    Thanks, but this is another text face, isn’t it? Called "Elzevir", what I was looking for were samples of "De Vinne Roman", the text cut of De Vinne designed by Frederic Goudy.