Research

Research consists of unintended or accidental discoveries that I have made during the course of my research into other topics. They are posted here in the belief that others may find the information equally fascinating. Some items are meant to challenge or question existing scholarship on a specific topic. And others are intended to alert scholars to material that may be relevant to their own pursuits or to new opportunities of research.

A video of Michael Harvey

Stan Knight just told me about a video made a few years ago of Michael Harvey reminiscing about his life. It can be found at the Edward Johnston Foundation website. He is sitting in his compact studio—a photograph of Luminous Boy, the black and white cat he and Pat had in the 1980s is visible in the background—quietly talking about Reynolds Stone, Eric Gill, book jackets, type design, etc. with his characteristic candor, lack of pretension and low-key humor. …
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Gilgengart: The tale of a typeface

Gilgengart Fraktur (often shortened to just Gilgengart) was the first typeface designed by Hermann Zapf. Its history is not only complicated but a bit muddy. This is because in the various books on his career, Zapf has given conflicting accounts of its origins and of the dates of each of its stages. Before trying to untangle the true story of Gilgengart, it should be noted that for all of his typefaces Zapf rightly makes a crucial distinction among the three phases …
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The Multiplicity of Type-Faces

There is always someone complaining that there are too many typefaces. In The Printing Art for August 1916 the editors, under the heading “The Multiplicity of Type-Faces” (pp. 562–563) have this to say:
Seriously, there is little need for the great variety of type-faces now offered. Of course, we require enough to relieve monotony in the appearance of our books and magazines, and to give proper emphasis in the advertising pages, but aside from this there is no absolute necessity for …
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An addendum to Print: The Color Issue—George F. Nesbitt 1841

Here is a short visual addendum to the current Stereotype column in Print co-written by Stephen Coles and I that focused on chromatic typefaces. These are two pages from Nesbitt’s Fourth Specimen of Machinery Cut Wood Type “manufactured and for sale by George F. Nesbitt, Tontine Building, New-York” (1841).  The specimen book is very short and all of its samples are, like those shown here, two-color decorative typefaces. Some are in red and black while others …
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A typographic mystery: an English typeface and a Maine gravestone

Last year while on vacation in Maine, I discovered peculiar letters on a well worn and lichen-encrusted gravestone in the Hope Grove Cemetery.  The tomb was for two children, Enoch P. who died in 1811 at the age of 18 and Sarah who died in 1804 at the age of ten. The foot of the tomb is missing and thus their last name is unknown, though local genealogists surmise it is Safford since a similar tomb nearby bears that name. …
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Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana announces digitized manuscripts

The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has finally begun to make public digital versions of its vast manuscript holdings. The first 256 manuscripts went online earlier this week, starting with Ott. Lat. 259 (a collation, combining a 9th c. manuscript of a text by Augustinus with a medieval manuscript of texts by Valerianus Cemelensis and Isidorus) and ending with Vat. lat. 11506 (a 9th c. Cicero). Most of the manuscripts are from the Palatini latini (Pal. lat.) collection.
Looking at the Digitized Manuscripts …
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Blue Pencil no. 26—Zapfiana no. 4: The Typefaces of Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse

After completing Zapfiana no. 3 it seemed only right that Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse* (b. 1918), Hermann Zapf’s wife and a talented type designer in her own right, be given the same treatment. Unfortunately, the literature on her is much slighter than that on her husband. There is are only two sources of significant length, one that focuses on her alone and one on the two Zapfs; and then there is one slender publication about the both of them. None of …
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Blue Pencil no. 22—Zapfiana no. 3: Works and Typefaces

The publication of About More Alphabets by Jerry Kelly spurred me to create this third Zapfiana post which lists books by and about Hermann Zapf and typefaces by him (as well as pirated copies by others). The latter is, unfortunately, incomplete as gathering information on them has been very difficult. But it is a task that needs to be done.
Last updated 13 December 2012.
ZAPFIANA
This is a list of the most important texts by and about Hermann Zapf arranged in chronological …
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Blue Pencil no. 19—Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual p. 45 “Color-coding 1 11/16" discs”
Wade Penner recently wrote to point out that, “the order of the discs on the cover [of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System] does not match the 1970 Graphic Standards manual [sic], alphabetically GG comes before HH.” He is absolutely right and I am surprised that no one has brought this to my attention before. But even more surprising is that no one …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum postscript from John Downer

John Downer has responded to my discussion of his essay “Call It What It Is”. He believes that I misinterpreted his words. Here is his rejoinder. (My original comments are in quotation marks followed by John’s responses.)
“Downer does not use the term pirated but counterfeit is surely the same.” The word “pirated” was consciously avoided not because there wasn’t room for it, but because I did not mean that only a counterfeited font can qualify as a pirated font. …
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From the Archives no. 26—Helvetica and Univers addendum

Indra Kupferschmid was in New York today and we had lunch. She provided me with a document that indicates that the idea for renaming Neue Haas Grotesk as Helvetica did not originate with Walter Cunz as the Mergenthaler Linotype advertisment states but with Heinz Eul, a sales manager at D. Stempel AG. (Eul gave the document to Erik Spiekermann who kindly provided a scan of it to Indra.) The story is told in Helvetica Forever: The Story of a Typeface …
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From the Archives no. 26—Helvetica and Univers

During a visit to the Herb Lubalin Study Center at Cooper Union I flipped through some early issues of U&lc. In the first issue (vol. 1, no. 1 1974) I came across a three-page advertisement from Mergenthaler Linotype (labeled an article by them) in which the first page (p. 43) was devoted to an announcement of two new weights of Helvetica. Entitled “Everything you ever wanted to know about Helvetica—but were afraid to ask” (a nod to the popular book Everything …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 4

I recently received an email from Robin Nicholas, Monotype’s Head of Typography in the United Kingdom, shedding more light on Monotype’s attempt in the 1950s to redesign Monotype Grotesque to satisfy the needs of German and Swiss customers: 
The saga of these fonts [three “New Grotesque” fonts] was rumbling on when I joined the TDO [Monotype’s Type Drawing Office] in 1965, although I did not get directly involved. It began in 1956 with a request from German and Swiss customers …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 3

The Arial thread that I began a few weeks ago keeps attracting comment. Indra Kupferschmid, the German typographer, has sent me a series of emails full of some provocative questions about Monotype Grotesque. I have taken the liberty (with Indra’s approval) of quoting the most pertinent parts of her emails. I am also posting her supporting images. Indra writes, “I never heard of a “New Grotesque” [from Monotype] from 1956. Why would they stop developing it when every single foundry …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum no. 2

Nick Sherman has been avidly following my Arial postings and in a recent email had this to say:
In the post, you say: “A clone is not only a typeface that looks like another one but has nearly the same data. By this definition Arial is not a clone of Helvetica, even though it has muscled in on Helvetica’s commercial success.” In some ways you are wrong. While the outlines of Arial are different from Helvetica, most of the …
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Blue Pencil no. 18—Arial addendum

Nick Sherman suggests that those interested in the Arial story look under the Wikipedia hood to see who has contributed to its account of the typeface. “This can be found by comparing previous edits of the article, under the ‘View history’ tab. For example, you can see that Thomas Phinney has edited the Arial article several times. You can also find some interesting tidbits under the ‘Discussion’ tab. He also reminds me that John Downer tackled the subject …
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