The Prevalence of Italian

This year both David Shields (Austin, Texas)—“A Short History of the Italian” in The Journal of St Bride Library—and James Clough (Milano, Italy)—“The ‘Italian’ Monstrosity” in TypoItalia 1—have written about the famously bizarre Italian typeface that Caslon & Catherwood launched in 1821. And Nick Sherman of MyFonts (and the Woodtyper blog) has pointed out that we now have two digital interpretations of the design (Slab Sheriff by Alex Sheldon of Match & Kerosene—an appropriate design for such an incendiary foundry—and Caslon Italian by Paul Barnes). Caslon Italian is shown in the Clough article and at It should be noted that Peter Bain of Incipit may have been the first to jump on the Italian bandwagon when he adopted the lowercase Figgins version of the face (1846) for his identity system nearly ten years ago.

A few weeks ago Taschen published Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, Volume I: 1628–1900 edited by Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis and Jan Tholenaar. The book is actually a showing of type specimens from foundries, printers and trade journals that Tholenaar collected. The book is a visual treat, although the prevalence of late 19th c. specimens can be wearying after awhile (a bit like eating too much cotton candy). One thing that caught my attention was the prevalence of Italian in specimens from a wide variety of countries (supporting one of the points Clough made in his article). Here is my tally of the showings:

Fonderie de E. Tarbé (Paris, 1835)—Italian used for PARIS on title page

sample page from Journal für Buchdruckerkunst, Schriftgiesserei und die verwanden Fächer (1835 according to the authors but more likely 1838 based on the images)—shows Phantasieschrift no. 2, an Italian from F. Schoch’sche Schriftschneiderei und Giesserei in Augsburg

Ornemens et Fleurons (Laurent & de Berny, 1838)—No. 60 Italiennes (2 P. de St.-Augustin) is a solid Italian with an outline shadow (as in the Porto sample below); a regular Italian is used for the heading of Égyptiennes-Blanches
Specimens of Printing Types Cast by Geo. Bruce & Co. (1848)—Italian used for 13 CHAMBERS-STREET on the title page; there is also a showing of Five-Line Pica Italian
Specimen Fundição de Typos Imprensa Nacional (Lisbon, 1858)—No. 22 (Corpo 20) is an outline Italian with a shadow; a regular Italian appears on its p. 40 for the word LISBOA (set on a curve!)
Geo. C. Rand & Avery, Printers (Boston, 1867)—Four-Line Pica Italian with different serifs on T and S than those in the Caslon model; there is also a lowercase

Specimen of the Fundição Tipographica Portuense (Porto, 1874)—No. 232 (Corpo 28) on its p. 54 is a solid Italian with an open shadow

Letterproef from Algemeene Landsdrukkerij (The Hague, 1876)—Dubbele Parel Italienne on its p. 35

My next post will be a Blue Pencil look at this Taschen book.