3 Lectures in London June 2024—Type Specimens, W.A. Dwiggins and Bartolomeo Sanvito

In June 2024 I will be in London to deliver three talks on three wildly disparate topics, a reflection of my varied interests over the past 40+ years: W.A. Dwiggins, Bartolomeo Sanvito, and type specimens. The thread that binds these topics is letterforms. Sanvito was a calligrapher; Dwiggins was a calligrapher, lettering artist, and type designer; and type specimens—of course—display typefaces (among other things).

Patent Shaded Four Lines Pica and Patent Shaded two Lines Double Pica from D. & G. Bruce Specimen of Printing Types (New York 1820)

Condensed No. 4 from Specimen Book of Type, Presses and Printers’ Supplies (Chicago: Union Type Foundry, 1884).

Tipos de Encabezamientos Alongados Nos. 8–16 from Catalogo y Mostruario de los Tipos (Lima: N. Lenta y Compañia, 1875)

Tuesday June 11
7 pm

St. Bride Institute
Bride Lane, Fleet Street

Reading Type Specimens: From Cicero to Spoonie Diddel Cicerone

Most designers—and before them, printers—have looked at type specimen books: at typefaces to see how beautiful (or ugly) their letters are; or at typefaces set in a mass to see how legible they are. But rarely have they read them and paid close attention to the words, phrases, poems, and paragraphs. My talk will closely examine the texts that typefounders have used to display and promote their typefaces. Those texts have varied greatly, both over time and from typefounder to typefounder. Eighteenth-century typefounders, following the example of William Caslon, relied on Cicero’s First Speech against Catiline to show off their text types. When Fat Faces, Egyptians, and Grotesques emerged as display types in the early 1800s, Caslon’s choice of text continued to be influential. Thus, “Quousque tandem abutere” persisted for types that were never intended for use in books. However, as the nineteenth century wore on, typefounders began to include quotations from literary and historical works, proverbs and maxims, patriotic references, contemporary news accounts, verbal hijinks, humorous wordplay, and just plain random combinations of words. In this talk I will bring to light a number of obscure references buried in the texts of type specimens from Erhard Ratdolt’s 1486 pioneering broadside to a Bauer specimen for Futura.

My talk is scheduled for 7 pm, but the doors open at 6:15 pm. There will be time beforehand for meeting and chatting with typographic friends. There are several ticket prices available. Please click on the link above for more details. The talk will be live-streamed.


Cover. Direct Advertising vol. XII, no. 4 (1926). Design, decoration, and lettering by W.A. Dwiggins.

Pen-and-ink artwork for check design (undated). Lettering, stencils, and design by W.A. Dwiggins. Image courtesy of the Paul Standard Collection, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Comp for slipcase cover for Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (New York: Random House, 1929). Design by W.A. Dwiggins. Image courtesy of Special Collections, Firestone Library, Princeton University.

Chapter opening from Droll Stories by Honoré Balzac (New York: Limited Editions Club, 1932). Vignette, initial, and book design by W.A. Dwiggins.

Wednesday June 12
6:30 pm

Letter Exchange
Art Workers’ Guild
6 Queen Square

The Calligraphy and Lettering of W.A. Dwiggins

This talk will be a variant of one I have given three times before (at the Rhode Island School of Design; and for the Society of Scribes in New York and the Friends of Calligraphy in San Francisco).

There are several price points for tickets. Please click on the Letter Exchange link above for details. The talk will be live-streamed.


Detail from Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Opera. (MS. 35, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas.) Written out by Bartolomeo Sanvito c.1460–1461.

Frontispiece from Caius Julius Caesar, Commentari de bello Gallico et civile, Alexandrino, Africano et Hispaniense (Ms. 453, Biblioteca Casanatense). Written out by Bartolomeo Sanvito c. 1469.

Page from Caius Suetonius Tranquillus, Vitae Imperatorum (Ms. 2° Philil 161 Cim., Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek). Written out by Bartolomeo Sanvito, c. 1478.

Saturday June 15
12:30 pm– 4 pm

Society of Scribes and Illuminators
Annual General Meeting and Open Day
Art Workers’ Guild
6 Queen Square

The Polychrome Capitals of Bartolomeo Sanvito

This talk will be a partial reprise of the one I did online for the Friends of Calligraphy in June 2023. You can read a description of it elsewhere on my website.

My talk is scheduled to begin at 2:45 pm after the SSI’s general business has been concluded. During the AGM there will also be a calligraphic exhibition entitled Small Is Beautiful on display. The entire event is free, but you must register online before 31 May 2024 for a ticket. Please click on the SSI’s AGM link above for more details.