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PARKER TYPE HISTORY · October 13, 2010

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Nicholas Jenson

The beginning of Chapter II is the fourth installment of Mike Parker’s Story of Type. Old style roman and italic typefaces are introduced, where capitals modeled after ancient Italian incised inscriptions are combined with a lowercase modeled on the forms of the Carolingian minuscule. The time period spans from the mid 15th century to the early 19th century and focuses on punchcutters of Italian, French, Dutch, British, and Hungarian origin.

II. Old Style Roman and Italic Typefaces

Nicholas Jenson (French, 1420–1480)

In Venice, the first great cultural center of the developing Renaissance, the blackletter used by the mediaeval ...

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SKETCHES · October 12, 2010


A very brief animated version history of the book, more or less.

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NEWS, TYPE DESIGN · October 6, 2010

Slab Happy: Trilby Reviewed by Paul Shaw

Paul Shaw reviews Trilby in an article for Print magazine. “Although the sans serif was originally a bastard offspring of the slab serif, the latter has been copying the former for the past 80 years, and Trilby by David Jonathan Ross continues this trend.” Read more...

NEWS, TYPE DESIGN · October 1, 2010

the smell of books

The following is the text from the presentation I gave at Matthew Carter’s AIGA Boston Fellows Award ceremony on September 24, 2010.

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NEWS · September 28, 2010

Matthew Carter Among the 2010 MacArthur Fellows

Accolades again to Matthew Carter! On the heels of receiving the AIGA Boston Fellows Award, he is among 22 others selected for the 2010 MacArthur Fellows, often referred to as the “genius award.” This year includes an impressive line up of recipients working across a broad spectrum of endeavors. Read more here about “a type designer crafting letterforms of unequaled elegance and precision that span the migration of text from the printed page to computer screens.”

PARKER TYPE HISTORY · September 9, 2010

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Mantegna

The third installment of Mike Parker’s Story of Type completes the first chapter, I. Roots of Western Letterforms & Typography. Like the previous installment we remain in the 15th century, and while Gutenberg was making history with movable type, Mantegna was making his mark with monumental Roman capitals.

Roman Capitals: Andrea Mantegna (Italian, 1431-1506)

This Italian Renaissance artist was among of the first to study and revive the monumental capitals of imperial Rome, foreshadowing the development of typographic capitals to come.

When asked if he had any additional insight about Mantegna, Matthew Carter offered the following:

The study of classical ...

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NEWS, WEB FONTS · August 20, 2010

Webtype Launched by Partnership of Experts

Led by Font Bureau and Ascender Corp., introduces a new range of web fonts optimized for high quality text rendering across browsers. launches an innovative web font service to improve web typography.

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NEWS · August 17, 2010

Imprint: Roger Black Discusses Future Potential for Type Design

On Imprint, Michael Dooley interviews Roger Black about the future potential of type design in advance of Black's keynote on Thursday night at TypeCon2010: Babel in Los Angeles. The presentation is sure to be engaging, given Black’s penchant for envisioning radical change and peering further ahead of the curve than most of the rest of us can see. Read more here.

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PARKER TYPE HISTORY · August 3, 2010

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Gutenberg

This is the second installment of Mike Parker’s Story of Type, a continuation of the first chapter, I. Roots of Western Letterforms & Typography. In the previous installment, we started in Mesopotamia to add context for the development of the alphabet, and then on to Constantinople where we saw the beginnings of the characters we use today. Now we leap to the 15th century, with Gutenberg’s invention of movable type.

Blackletter: Johann Gutenberg (German, 1394–1468)

Gutenberg (originally Gensfleich) is credited with the invention of the typefounders’ mold between 1440 and 1450. The Bible printed circa 1455 by Gutenberg with Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer was the first complete book printed in the first effective typeface to be cast in metal — the start of the medium that limited, then broke, the dominance of the church and opened the door to the modern commercial world.

The first typefaces appeared in forms of blackletter, the letterform of the church, all but illegible to our present-day eyes. The elements of lettering that distinguish blackletter characters from each other are the same elements that repeat and hold the roman form together, and vice versa. Fifteen years were to pass before the beginnings of our present roman and italic first appeared in Venice.

A single example of the simplest form of typefounders’ mold, a reflection of Gutenberg’s invention, survives with a set of 15th-century Parisian blackletter matrices in a case at the Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, Belgium. The museum, comprising an entire city block, preserves intact the leading press of the 16th century with all of its gear, records, and library, all open to the public. It should be visited when possible by anyone with a concern for the history and development of our trade.

The dominant sighting of blackletter in the U.S. is in its prevalence among newspaper mastheads, from the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times to smaller publications, such as St. Petersburg Times and The Virginian-Pilot. Font Bureau has worked with these and many other publications on the typography of their redesigns, including custom typeface design; but we go directly to the expert when it comes to redesigning newspaper mastheads: Jim Parkinson of Parkinson Type Design.

According to Parkinson:

Blackletter was first used for a newspaper nameplate in England in about 1680. It was probably adapted as an easily accessible way to distinguish the name of the newspaper from the text, which was commonly set in roman type. The first ornamented blackletter nameplate (an inlined letter) was introduced by the British printer John Bell in 1787.

Blackletter still has connotations of formality, authority, dignity, and tradition; and for those reasons, it continues to be used for many newspaper nameplates to this day.

My professional experience with nameplates suggests that about half are blackletter and half roman. This is not a formal poll, but merely an accounting of the nameplates that have crossed my desk.

NEWS · July 26, 2010

SPD: Roger Black on Ready Media

As Robert Newman writes, “A post earlier this week on the SPD [Society of Publication Designers] site about the new Ready-Media project...was the most controversial item we’ve ever published. It attracted passionate and articulate comments, both pro and con...” In a follow up, Newman asks Roger Black to answer some questions about Ready-Media and here’s what he had to say.