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Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Plantin, de Sanlecque, & Le Bé

This eighth installment is as much about printers in the late 16th century as it is about the punchcutters. The Plantin-Moretus Museum, the famous printing house mentioned in earlier installments, finally comes to life with its founder, Christopher Plantin. The inventories from the Le Bé type foundry in Paris illuminate the two de Sanlecques, father and son, and shed light on other notables in type history, until we're finally led to the underpinnings of David Berlow’s Eldorado.

II. Old Style Roman and Italic Typefaces (continued)

Christopher Plantin (French, c. 1530-1589)

Plantin was not a designer but a publisher ...

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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 ...

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PARKER TYPE HISTORY · December 13, 2010

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Augereau, Garamont, Jannon, Granjon

We continue onward to early 16th century France. French type design was influenced by the Italian Renaissance (especially the work of Aldus Manutius) but eventually evolved to have its own distinct character. Augereau was among the early founders to start the trend, while Garamont’s roman types became the best known. Jannon’s types are most infamous for being mistaken for Garamont’s in the 19th century. And Granjon elevated the French oldstyle forms to new levels of vitality.

From Font Bureau’s library there is Throhand, FB Garamond, and Meno, all designed taking reference from these type masters.

II ...

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PARKER TYPE HISTORY · November 11, 2010

Mike Parker’s Story of Type: Manutius et al

Chapter II, fifth installment. Italy. Venice and Rome more specifically. We meet great writing masters, punchcutters, and printers in such names as Manutius, Griffo, Tagliente, Arrighi, and Blado.

II. Old Style Roman and Italic Typefaces (continued)

Aldus Manutius (Venetian, ca 1450-1515)
Francesco Griffo (Venetian, died ca 1517)

Ten years after Jenson’s death Aldus Manutius and his brilliant punchcutter, Francesco Griffo, moved to Venice, where they printed from 1495 until Aldus’ death twenty-five years later. He ran four presses, the first industrial printer. Griffo’s first roman type appeared in 1495 in Cardinal Bembo’s “De Aetna.” In 1532 this ...

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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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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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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.