Feedback wanted on my Van Krimpen-inspired typeface

Michael StevensMichael Stevens Posts: 5
edited July 2022 in Type Design Critiques
I’m redrawing/reinterpreting Sheldon, a little-known book Roman by Van Krimpen with a massive x-height that I found in his classic On Designing And Devising Type. While the letterforms derive their basic proportions and construction from Van Krimpen, I took some significant liberties, especially with the serif structures. 

I began with “Handgloves” (see images). My goal is to perfect the drawing and spacing of this word as best I can before moving further. 

I intend for this typeface to be used at text size only, and hope for it to especially shine in that same 6-8pt range (Sheldon was cut at 7pt and it’s quite striking on the page with its tall x-height—very efficient and elegant).

I’m including images on a white background, black background and small/blurred (probably best to view these on a desktop display).

I welcome any feedback! 


  • DTL Sheldon Working Drawings

    Just for the record: in the mid-1990s, the Dutch Type Library obtained the rights to Jan van Krimpen’s Sheldon through his son Huib van Krimpen. It required some investigations to find out who at that time exactly owned the rights on the typeface. In the end it turned out that the Oxford University Press had the exclusive use in the 1930s for a period of five years. The rights then returned to JvK and were later passed on to his heirs. Huib was very satisfied with DTL Haarlemmer and trusted me with Sheldon.

    DTL Sheldon Roman IKARUS format

    The revival of Sheldon is part of the DTL Van Krimpen Project. Digitization started three decades ago with the production of working drawings at a capital height of 10 centimeters based on the original drawings of JvK. These were manually digitized in the IKARUS format. As you may know, the DTL tools still support this format, and we also have the old UNIX version that is still running under macOS, as you can see in some screenshots.

    DTL Sheldon Italic IKARUS format

    Font production always takes a while at DTL, because we think that type must mature like exquisite wine. That is especially the case for the ultimate delicate type designs by Jan van Krimpen. However, I expect to finish DTL Sheldon in the coming year.

    DTL Sheldon Italic in DTL FoundryMaster
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 775
    edited July 2022
    Dutch Type Library obtained the rights to Jan van Krimpen’s Sheldon through his son Huib van Krimpen. 
     Frank, do you have the rights for CB too?
  • Hi Pablo, May 1996 DTL acquired the rights to the trademark and design of Romulus through Monotype. This only includes what has been produced by Monotype: so not, for example, the Cancelleresca Bastarda. The production of DTL Romulus also started with IKARUS. Monotype kindly provided 1:1 photocopies of the original 10-inch working drawings, which were marked and digitized manually.

    DTL Romulus Roman in IKARUS format

    By the way, correction to my previous message: the rights to Sheldon date from November 1992.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,086
    edited July 2022
    I see that for now, people can make do with Nicholas Garner's Combi. Also, there had been a revival of Cancelleresca Bastarda by Richard Beatty according to one of my search results.
    I found other amusing things in my search. One web site quoted Hermann Zapf as saying "I could try to draw each letter so that it stood in graceful relation to the other twenty-five."
    No doubt the context (the quote is cited as being from Hunt Roman, the Birth of a Typeface) would correct the impression the literal words give; that this was something he thought about doing, but did not actually do. As one of the world's foremost type designers, Hermann Zapf would of course have followed that fundamental principle of type design enunciated by Matthew Carter, that a typeface needs to be a beautiful collection of letters, not merely a collection of beautiful letters!
  • Michael StevensMichael Stevens Posts: 5
    edited July 2022
    Hi Frank, 

    Thanks for this information! When I first started research on Sheldon about a year ago, I remember seeing that DTL has been working on a revival, but I wasn't sure the status of the project, or whether it would be completed.

    I read in On Designing And Devising Type that Oxford intended to print a Bible using Sheldon. Do you happen to know, are there any surviving copies of that Bible? Or, for that matter, any other surviving letterpress specimens besides the sample JvK included in On Designing And Devising Type
  • Hi Michael, there is another Sheldon type specimen in The Work of Jan van Krimpen. As for the relevant bible, in this beautiful book on JvK’s œuvre by John Dreyfus from 1952 one can read on page 48: ‘[…] and will be used for an octavo Bible set in double column.’ in On Designing and Devising Type from 1957 Jan van Krimpen refers to Dreyfus on page 91 and adds ‘[in the meantime it has been used].’ Van Krimpen also notes that the cover of the octavo Bible contains a statement about Sheldon’s uniqueness. However, I have never seen a copy or picture of the book. In his annotations in the Dutch translation of On Designing and Devising Type, Huib van Krimpen gives no additional information about Sheldon (or I must have overlooked it).

    Signed Dutch edition of On Designing and Devising Type

    By the way, at the nice presentation of the Dutch edition in Haarlem in 1990, I asked Huib van Krimpen, Sem Hartz (speaker at the event), Gerrit Noordzij, and Jan de Jong (publisher) to sign it (see image). Five years later John Dreyfus kindly signed my copy of The Work of Jan van Krimpen ahead of the opening of the Jan van Krimpen exhibition in Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum (he was a speaker, if I recall correctly, and I was a panelist at an introductory discussion of JvK’s work).
  • Michael StevensMichael Stevens Posts: 5
    edited July 2022

    It's just fascinating to be in contact with someone so close to the original Sheldon typeface, and this world of historic Dutch type design more generally. I have spent a lot of time over the past year thinking about and looking at Sheldon—it's become a bit of an obsession.

    Given the similarity of our projects, I want to make it quite clear that I have no intention whatsoever to retail the typeface I create, regardless of how radically it ends up deviating from JvK's original. I'm very much a beginner when it comes to type design, so even if I tried to sell my work, I'm sure nobody would buy it! I was, however, hoping to use it in a book as a one-off, custom typeface (I work as a graphic designer for a small publisher in Illinois). I'm hoping this will not be a problem, given how the design has evolved away from DTL's version (see above).

    Now that I know about DTL's planned 2022 release, I'd be curious if you all will be retailing your revival of Sheldon? Perhaps we could use it in our book instead—that would be even better! I wish I had known from the start of my book design that an authoritative revival was just around the corner... 

    As you can see in the images I first posted to this thread, the design I'm current pursuing is actually evolving into something a bit heavier in weight and differently proportioned/spaced. What I started with, though, is (to my eye) strikingly similar to what you are currently creating for DTL (see below).

    It's actually a bit uncanny—I had been scouring the internet for a digitized version of Sheldon, but couldn't find anything beyond a handful of images of van Krimpen's large-scale drawings (which served as my initial references in addition to the On Devising and Designing specimen). I actually found it quite challenging to "interpolate" between the On Devising specimen (will its ink spread) and JvK's lighter, more refined, higher contrast design drawings. It seemed to me that if I wanted to capture the effect of the printed specimen, I simply needed to go quite a bit bolder. But I really do like the subtlety of the larger drawings, and strongly considered proofing my outlines against them as opposed to the letterpress specimen in On Devising. 

    Anyways, I'm sorry if this took you off guard in any way—I'm just a beginner type designer who's a huge fan of van Krimpen's. Delighted to have crossed paths with you, Frank! 
  • Hi Michael, I enjoyed our exchange and I wish you all the best with your project. For the sake of completeness, I responded here: after all, the development of DTL Sheldon started already 30 years ago. Ultimately DTL Sheldon will include three versions, namely ‘Poster’, ‘Display’, and ‘Text’, just like DTL Romulus. It cannot be ruled out that it will be 2024 before all of these are completed.
    DTL Sheldon IKARUS base
    Incidentally, that there are similarities between your interpretation of the original drawings for Sheldon and the first digitization by DTL from almost 30 years ago is not remarkable, as they are based on the same source material. However, there are also many differences between the two versions. I think this also has to do with the fact that we made high-quality working drawings on polyester film of the photos we took in the Amsterdam University Library. This method was chosen to capture as much of the fine details as possible, which were digitized by hand using a lens-cursor. The image above shows the initial IKARUS digitization. For example, the handling of the arches differs from yours and this has consequences for the counters (and vice versa, of course).

    When it comes to emboldening through the ink squash in letterpress and how to translate this in digital type, you may be interested in the research of archetypal artifacts that my students and I are doing in Antwerp. Anyway, all the best again!
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