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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 antiquities sometimes took a convivial form. Felice Feliciano of Verona left a record of an inscription-hunting excursion by boat along the shore of Lake Garda in the fall of 1464, accompanied by music and wine. Mantegna was among the friends who took part. Felice, a scribe among other things, made the earliest surviving record of the Imperial Roman capitals, a manuscript alphabet now in the Vatican Library. Mantegna’s letters were beautifully drawn, derived from scholarship and collecting, enlivened by the personal interpretation of a consummate artist.

A fine example of Mantegna’s lettering is shown below in an excerpt from his engraving, Entombment, from a recent exhibition at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. For a full view of this work, click here.

The painted and engraved lettering of Andrea Mantegna formed the model for Mantinia, a titling designed by Matthew Carter. Mantinia contains several distinctive ligatures found in stone if not in type, and a set of raised small capitals of intermediate height as well as a few tall capitals that are also inscriptional in origin.


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