A Brief History of Type
Source: A Brief History of Type
Source: Typographic History
Venetian or “old style” Latin types
Venetian or “old style” Latin types are also called antiqua. The inscriptional capitals on Roman buildings and monuments were structured on a euclidean geometric scheme and the discrete component-based model of classical architecture. Their structurally perfect design, near-perfect execution in stone, balanced angled stressing, contrasting thick and thin strokes, and incised serifs became the typographic ideal for western civilization. The best-known example of Roman inscriptional capitals exists on the base of Trajan’s Column.
Claude Garamont (c. 1510 – 1561) was a French type designer, publisher and punch-cutter based in Paris. Garamond worked as an engraver of punches, the masters used to stamp matrices, the moulds used to cast metal type. He worked in the tradition of what is now called old-style serif letter design, that produced letters with a relatively organic structure resembling handwriting with a pen but with a slightly more structured and upright design. Considered one of the leading type designers of all time, he is recognised to this day for the elegance of his typefaces.
Garamond was one of the first independent punchcutters, specialising in type design and punch-cutting as a service to others rather than working in house for a specific printer. His career therefore helped to define the future of commercial printing with typefounding as a distinct industry to printing books.
Christophe Plantin (Dutch: Christoffel Plantijn; c. 1520 – 1 July 1589) was an influential Renaissance humanist and book printer and publisher. Plantin was a prolific printer and prosperous entrepreneur, publishing more than 40 editions of emblem books. In contrast, his most important work is considered to be the Biblia Regia (King’s Bible), also known as the Plantin Polyglot.
William Caslon I (1692/1693 – 23 January 1766), also known as William Caslon the Elder, was an English typefounder. The distinction and legibility of his type secured him the patronage of the leading printers of the day in England and on the continent. His typefaces transformed English type design and first established an English national typographic style.
John Baskerville (28 January 1706 – 8 January 1775) was an English businessman, in areas including japanning and papier-mâché, but he is best remembered as a printer and type designer. He practised as a printer in Birmingham, England. Baskerville was a member of the Royal Society of Arts, and an associate of some of the members of the Lunar Society. He directed his punchcutter, John Handy, in the design of many typefaces of broadly similar appearance. Baskerville also was responsible for significant innovations in printing, paper and ink production. He developed a technique which produced a smoother whiter paper which showcased his strong black type. Baskerville also pioneered a completely new style of typography adding wide margins and leading between each line.
Giambattista Bodoni (February 16, 1740 in Saluzzo – November 30, 1813 in Parma) was an Italian typographer, type-designer, compositor, printer and publisher in Parma. He first took the type-designs of Pierre Simon Fournier as his exemplars, but afterwards became an admirer of the more modelled types of John Baskerville; and he and Firmin Didot evolved a style of type called ‘New Face’, in which the letters are cut in such a way as to produce a strong contrast between the thick and thin parts of their body. Bodoni designed many type-faces, each one in a large range of type sizes. He is even more admired as a compositor than as a type-designer, as the large range of sizes which he cut enabled him to compose his pages with the greatest possible subtlety of spacing. Like Baskerville, he sets off his texts with wide margins and uses little or no illustrations or decorations.
Firmin Didot (son of François-Ambroise Didot) was born in 1764 and died in 1836. Firmin Didot was the inventor of stereotypography which entirely changed the book trade. Firmin Didot was the first to engrave slips of so-called “English” and round hand-writing. Among the works which issued from his press were “Les Ruines de Pompéi”, “Le Panthéon égyptien” of Champollion-Figeac, and “Historial du Jongleur”, printed in Gothic type, with tail-pieces and vignettes, like the editions of the fifteenth century. In 1827, Firmin Didot gave up business to devote himself to politics and literature. He was a member of the Chamber of Deputies and wrote tragedies (“La Reine de Portugal”, “La Mort d’Annibal”) and essays on literary topics. Along with Giambattista Bodoni of Italy, Firmin Didot is credited with designing and establishing the use of the “Modern” classification of typefaces. The types that Didot used are characterized by extreme contrast in thick strokes and thin strokes, by the use of hairline serifs and by the vertical stress of the letters. Many fonts today are available based on Firmin Didot’s typefaces. These include Linotype Didot and HTF Didot.
Joseph W. Phinney
Joseph Warren Phinney (born 1848, Nantucket – d. 1934) was an American printer, type designer, and business executive. Phinney began his career at the Dickinson Type Foundry in Boston where he designed type and worked in management, eventually becoming owner. He was a key player in arranging the merger of twenty-six large foundries to form the American Type Founders Company in 1892, becoming both manager of the Boston branch and head of the design department, where he oversaw the consolidation of type faces following the merger. Though his own designs were largely derivative, Phinney took a great interest in type and its history and throughout his tenure at A.T.F. he sought to preserve and protect that company’s legacy, as for instance, when he oversaw the re-introduction of Binny & Ronaldson’s 1796 type design, Roman No. 1, as Oxford in 1892, or when he purchased Frederick W. Goudy’s first type design, Camelot, in 1896. He stayed with A.T.F. for the rest of his career, passing the role of design head to Morris Fuller Benton and becoming senior vice-president. Phinney retired shortly before the company fell upon hard times during the Great Depression and died in 1934.
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