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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 5

Type Specimens

page 127

Type Specimens.

Of type novelties there seems to be no end, though any one who takes the trouble to compare the new styles as they appear will find that the claims of many of them to originality are very slender indeed. The great majority are only slight modifications of existing faces, and the alterations are not always for the better. Of new faces of body-letter it is impossible to say much. The modern face has reached a stage, so far as regularity and beauty are concerned, where further improvement can scarcely be expected; and this, in the opinion of some observers, accounts for the revival of styles that not many years ago were regarded as obsolete and barbarous. Further advance in the direction of beauty being difficult, it is only natural that the quality of legibility should receive special attention. We have already recorded the labors of M. Motteroz in this direction, and now we welcome another attempt in the same field, which, however uncouth it may at first sight appear, is entitled to respectful consideration as one more endeavor to reform the printed character in the direction of the greatest possible legibility. We have seen more than one reference to the Danziger Schrift, produced by Herr A. M. Kafemann, of Danzig, from designs the result of experiments by Dr. Schneller, oculist, of the same city. But it is only recently that we have seen the type, in a supplement issued by the Journal für Buchdruckerkunst. We would greatly like to place before our readers specimens of both the French and German efforts to produce the greatest amount of legibility, but would require some of the types themselves to do so. Our home or American contemporaries are in such cases able to resort to facsimile processes, which are not available here, and if they were, would not do full justice to the subject. The points of similarity between the characters of M. Motteroz and those of Dr Schneller are not nearly so striking as the contrasts. The French face is wide, with long ascenders and equally long descenders; the German is somewhat compressed, bearing a general resemblance to the English job-letter known as Condensed Latin, and with short ascenders and extremely short descenders. In the French style, the small letters, such as a and o, barely exceed one-third of the body in height, in the German letter they fill rather more than half. The contrast extends to the serifs, which we have already indicated as the weak point of the Motteroz roman, where they are flat, short, thin, and almost invisible. In the German letter they are a prominent feature, being strongly bracketed obliquely to the stem, in this style: Hi. The general result is a much closer and heavier effect in the Danzig roman, which is to the French type as a modern clarendon or condensed latin is to a light open roman, and carries fully double the amount of color. There is one eccentricity in the Danzig letter—the a is abandoned, and an upright a takes its place. It is worthy of note that this form was at first adopted by the late Dr. Ellis for one of the vowels in his phonetic alphabet, but was early discarded.

The question naturally arises: ؟Which of these two widely-differing forms—the French or the German—best fulfils the object of its designers? At the ordinary reading-distance, we should have thought that the heavy Danzig type, though unlovely as a body-letter, would be the more legible of the two. But this idea was not confirmed by experiment. Placing three of equal bodies side-by-side—ordinary roman, the Motteroz, and the Schneller character, we tested which we could read at the greatest distance. The test was equal, for all the specimens were in a foreign tongue. The standard roman melted from view while the others were still plainly readable. But the Danzig and the Paris letters stood the test equally well, though the details faded from sight in an entirely different manner. In the Motteroz types, the comparatively slender characters were gradually lost upon the extensive white background which the designer thought necessary to give them relief. In the Schneller types, the extremely small whites within and between the characters disappeared just at the same time as the lines of the French style, and the words became groups of black dots. We satisfied ourselves that the full measure of legibility had been gained in entirely different ways by independent experimenters; and that at considerable sacrifice of symmetry and beauty, one had produced a light and open and the other a heavy and rugged style, which could be read at nearly one-third greater distance from the eye than the accepted standard of roman type. We hope yet to be able to show both styles in our own pages, for the information of our readers.

Dr. Schneller has also devised a Danziger Fraktur, in which the German Text is modified in accordance with his principles. The letter recals some of the rude and heavy forms employed by the early printers, but on examination is seen to be much more regular. It has no fine lines, all superfluous parts of the letter are retrenched, and it bears much the same relation to the regular German as a heavy sanserif does to roman. The standard German—not, as might have been supposed, the simpler and more legible Schwabacher— supplies the type of the character.

We have this month to welcome a rarity—a really new face. Genzsch & Heyse, of Hamburg, have brought out a Cursiv-Elzevir-Egyptienne, which is the italic or sloped complement to the popular Old-Style Antique. It fills a vacant place, especially in business circulars, and will, we think, come greatly into favor. Nine sizes.

Sir Charles Reed & Sons send us their latest octavo specimen-book, a handsome and bulky volume. All the later styles therein shown we have already noted from time to time as specimen-sheets arrived. A neat little book from the same house contains the whole series of Ronaldson romans, originated by the Johnson Foundry, and much used in bookwork by American printers. Clean-cut as this letter is, we dislike it as a body-font. In point of legibility it compares unfavorably with old-face, modern roman, or ordinary modified old-style, its exaggerated and obtrusive serifs being a perpetual irritation to the eye in reading. British punch-cutters still maintain the lead in the line of standard faces. A parcel of loose sheets contains some new job-faces. Latin Old-Style is a good and characteristic letter, belonging to the same general group as S. B. & Co.'s Bold Latin Condensed. The caps show no special feature, and resemble in many respects the Clarendon Antique, also by Reed, with alternative forms of the B, R, and perhaps of other letters. A noticeable peculiarity of this style—the acutely-sloped serifs—is confined to the lowercase. Bold Runic, five sizes, long primer to 2-line great primer, is an extra heavy and solid form, with lowercase, of the style generally known as latin. A very useful letter.

Caslon shows, in five sizes, a neat and graceful circular italic, having some of the features both of script and of old English. It is exhibited under the name of Teuton Italic, and is, we presume, a German face, though we do not at the moment remember having seen it before. Columbian Italic, four sizes, is the American « Crayonette. » A beautiful combination border (Series 18) contains seven characters only. The founders do not say that the design is original, so we infer that it is an example of foreign art. In its way, it is a masterpiece.

Freak and Fake are two novelties by the Boston Foundry. The first is a fantastic sans with lowercase, the line of uniform thickness. The second, caps only, is somewhat similar in style, but lighter. The designer has departed from the usual rule by making his C and S both very top-heavy. We sigh as we record the multiplication of faces of this class. They would not attract our dollars.