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PARKER TYPE HISTORY · January 24, 2011

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Van den Keere

In this seventh installment the focus is on Hendrik van den Keere, the 16th-century Flemish punchcutter. Little could he have known that 400 years later a revival of his roman types would become the most widely used font for newspapers: Poynter Oldstyle, part of Font Bureau’s Readability Series.

II. Old Style Roman and Italic Typefaces (continued)

Hendrik van den Keere (Flemish, 1540/42–1580)

Also known as Henri du Tour, Van den Keere, like Robert Granjon, left forty sets of matrices in the Plantin-Moretus Museum. They center on a series of magnificent Flemish blackletter, the culmination of Gutenberg’s style, now sadly obsolete. As Stanley Morison once observed, such types strengthened the elegant French romans with features of Flemish blackletter. Large on the body, strong in color, economical in fit, widely (if anonymously) distributed, Van den Keere’s romans established standards for all that followed.

A blackletter cut by Van den Keere for Plantin, ca. 1570 (possibly the first such), also described in the Plantin inventories as 'Gros texte Flamand de Henri du Tour.'¹

Van den Keere’s later work centers on a series of magnificent romans of unsurpassed beauty and readability that were cut in Ghent for Plantin in Antwerp. With their slight increase in x-height and color, this series set the model for the 17th-century romans that followed. In the 1990s Font Bureau revived this design as Poynter Oldstyle, one of the most successful of all oldstyle revivals.

Reale Romaine, possibly one of the best Romans by Van den Keere, cut for Plantin in 1570.¹

Tobias Frere-Jones has commented on the development of Poynter Oldstyle, excerpted here from the Gerrit Noordzij Prize catalog²:

“The initial idea was to study newspaper text in the present day and target its specific needs. The Poynter Institute for Newspaper Studies sponsored the project and organized a symposium of newspaper designers to get feedback on the early stages of development. Mike Parker suggested the designs of the [sixteenth]-century Flemish punchcutter Hendrik van den Keere as a starting point, and I studied several of his types, both in print and in the original punches at the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.”

Sample of Poynter Oldstyle Text Two Italic and Roman, set to correspond to Van den Keere's Reale Romaine above.

To find out more about the history and development of Poynter Oldstyle and to view specimens, download our Readability Specimen (2001), or read about what the Poynter Institute had to say about the distinctiveness of the Poynter fonts for newspapers in 2002 here.

¹ Source: Images taken from the Type Specimen Facsimile No. 17 of Plantin’s Folio Specimen, ca. 1585, by H.D.L. Vervliet & Harry Carter [London: The Bodley Head, 1972]. Captions paraphrase info from their notes, along with additional info from Dutch Type by Jan Middendorp [Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004].

² Source: Tobias Frere-Jones Gerrit Noordzij Prize Exhibition (held at The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Mar 6–28, 2009) catalog published by Uitgeverij De Buitenkant, Amsterdam, 2009.


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