By the Numbers no. 1—Some Didones in Italy, Copenhagen, London, Philadelphia, and Montreal
By the Numbers is a companion series to the Rchive series of blog posts. While the Rchive focuses on iterations of the capital R, By the Numbers will look at numerals, especially as they appear as the addresses of residences, offices, factories, and other buildings in the urban environment. This first installment is a survey of numerals in the didone style.*
The Sotoportego de le Pute [The Passageway of the Bitches] in the Castello sestiere of Venice. A sotoportego (Venetian dialect for sottoportico) is a passageway between or underneath two houses in Venice, often along a rio (river). The closed shutters of an Ave Maria shrine are visible in the background. The stenciled letters, black on whitewashed rectangles called nizioleti, are typical of Venice “street” names. Many have been captivated by them (see, for instance, the crisply beautiful stencil alphabet made by the English designer John Morgan or the overly-irregular font from Jake Tilson). The Didot-like letters are commonly believed to be a legacy of the Napoleonic era of Venice’s history which lasted initially from May to October 1797 and then again from 1805 to 1814.
The house numbers in Venice are stenciled in red as can be seen at the left of the shrine above and in the example below. Although the numerals are thought of as being Didot in origin, they are really closer to the work of Joseph Vibert, especially the design commonly known as Gras Vibert (cut c.1820–1830) which Jean François has resuscitated as Ambroise.  The closed bowl 2 is the key character.
The French influence in Italy was not limited to Venice, but spread to other cities in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Below are two didone house numbers from Verona, one in enamel and the other stenciled directly on the stone. Note how the upper portion of the 3 is more rigid than in the Gras Vibert model. The stenciled 2 is lighter and more condensed than its Venetian counterpart.
Although Torino was not part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy it came under French rule following the Treaty of Torino (1860) which annexed the Duchy of Savoy to France. Thus, one can find didone house numbers in Torino as well as in the cities of the Veneto and Lombardia. At the same time, as the second photograph below shows, there are some unique interpretations of the didone model, perhaps influenced by the types of Giambattista Bodoni, a native of Saluzzo, 38 miles southwest of Torino.
The Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla was under French rule from 1796 until 1847. This 4 (with its seriffed top) from a house number in Parma is a truly bizarre interpretation of the didone numeral.
The didone section of the Vox type classification system is not limited to typefaces directly in the Didot or Bodoni lineage, but also embraces variants such as the fat faces that appeared in England in the first three decades of the 19th century.
The pediment of SS Peter and Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in the Wilmington Square area of London sports a date in fat face numerals that undoubtedly were inspired by the types of Figgins and William Thorowgood (see above).  It is unfortunate that the hairlines have eroded away.
Both the Gras Vibert type and the British fat faces influenced house numbers in Copenhagen, as can be seen from this sampling of numerals that have been incised, painted, enameled, and cast in metal. Note the two versions of 1 in the enamel examples as well as the differences between the two fat face 2s.
Across the Atlantic Ocean we can also find the influence of British fat face types via copies by American foundries. The Five Lines Pica, No. 1 by Vincent Figgins shown earlier is probably the source for Canon No. 1 shown in the 1837 specimen of the Boston Type and Stereotype Foundry. However, the narrowness of the Philadelphia numerals below—along with the high position and serif of the crossbar of the 4 and the severe angle of the upper body of the 5—distinguish them from British models. These cast iron numerals appear on a 4-story building, designed by John Riddell for E.W. Clark Brokerage, that was erected in 1852. 
A final example of didone numerals is this ghost address in Montreal. The painted address is in shaded fat face figures laid out vertically along a door jamb at 292 Rue Saint-Paul. I undoubtedly have more in my files, but for now these examples provide a good introduction to didone numerals in the urban environment in Europe and North America.
* Didone, a category in the ATypI/Vox type classification system, is a conflation of the names Didot and Bodoni.
1. Porchez says that Vibert was Jean-Michel Vibert but I believe he was “…Joseph Vibert, habile graveur en typographie, qui a puissament contribué à la perfection des plus remarquables éditions sorties de chez Didot.” (From Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne by Louis-Gabriel Michaud [Paris: Ch. Delagrave et Cie., 1864], vol. 43, p. 281.) Also see Archives des Découvertes et des Inventions Nouvelles (Paris: Chez Treuttel et Würtz, 1815), p. 406 which mentions Joseph Vibert and Pierre Didot inventing a type mould.
2. The church was originally the Northampton Tabernacle. See the entry for Amwell Street at British History Online.
3. This information comes from Old City Historic District by the Philadelphia Historical Commission (2003; amended 2014), an inventory of buildings in that section of the city.