Detail of title for typographic calendar published by PM Typographers in 1984. Designed by Tony DiSpigna.

Palermo roman and italic typefaces cut by Giambattista Bodoni. From his 1788 Manuale Tipografico.

Detail from the Mausoleo Ossario Garibaldino (1941), a Fascist monument erected to honor the dead of the battles between 1849 and 1870 to liberate Rome from the control of the Papal States. Designed by Giovanni Jacobucci.

Detail from business card from John Baxter & Son, Edinburgh printers. An example of Artistic Printing (1893).

Detail from bauhaus dessau im gewerbemuseum basel exhibition poster (1929). Designed by Franz Ehrlich after a sketch by Joost Schmidt.

Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

The Definitive Dwiggins no. 722—“Mantegna” and Margaret B. Evans

Margaret B. Evans (1903–1986) was a compositor, printer, and book designer. She attended Radcliffe College, graduating in 1927, and then did graduate study in the history of printing under George Parker  Winship at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. After that Evans went from studying printing in books to learning about it first hand with a two-year apprenticeship from 1929 to 1931 at The Printing House of William Edwin Rudge in Mount Vernon, New York. In 1931 she became the designer …
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Type Specimens, Type Specimen and More Type Specimens—Letterforms Study Group in San Francisco August 21–23, 2023

There are still places available for these inexpensive special study sessions about type specimens led by Paul Shaw. Registration ends August 18. Scroll to the bottom for prices and payment options.
Page from a specimen of Grobe Kabel Kursiv by Rudolf Koch (Gebr. Klingspor 1930) reproduced in Type. A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles vol. 2 edited by Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis and Jan Tholenaar (Köln: Taschen, 2010).
About Type Specimens
At first glance type specimens are innocuous …
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Letterforms Study Group in San Francisco—A Type and Type Specimen Trifecta August 21–23, 2023

The Letterforms Study Group is coming to San Francisco this summer. From August 21 to August 23, 2023 I will host three study sessions focused on type specimens. These are not lectures. They are participatory, collaborative investigations of physical items (books, periodicals, broadsides, etc.) which are linked thematically. My role in these events is to act as a facilitator and an informed guide rather than as an all-knowing authority.
Participants do not need to have prior familiarity with type design or …
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Grolier Club talk—The Greatest Type Specimen Ever Made: The 1882 Bruce Foundry specimen

p. 39 from Specimens of Printing Types Made at Bruce’s New-York Type-Foundry (New York: George Bruce’s Son & Co., Type-Founders, 1882).
…probably the largest, most complete and finest typographical specimen book ever produced.—La Cygne Journal (La Cygne, Kansas) April 29, 1882
Specimens of Printing Types Made at Bruce’s New-York Type-Foundry (New York: George Bruce’s Son & Co., Type-Founders, 1882)
Although it is neither the most colorful nor the most visually sumptuous type specimen, the 1882 Bruce type foundry specimen is arguably the …
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Blue Pencil no. 72—The Proof-Sheet: type specimens of Collins & M’Leester

The first page of The Proof-Sheet vol. I, no. 1 (July 1867). Note the introduction.
The Proof-Sheet was the house organ of the Collins & M’Leester type foundry in Philadelphia. [1] Edited by Eugene Munday (1831–1893), a historian of Philadelphia newspapers and a stickler for correct grammar, it was published from 1867 until 1880. Every issue of The Proof-Sheet contained several pages showing the foundry’s latest typefaces and other offerings along with information on literature, publishing, printing, and the type trade. …
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Demonology & | witchcraft!!! | Printing: An online research session into the history of Philadelphia type foundries 1823–1844

Six Lines Gothic Condensed and Six Lines Gothic from Specimen of Printing Types and Ornaments by Rob & Ecklin, Letter Founders (Philadelphia: 1836). Image courtesy of RIT Libraries Digital Collections.
Letterforms Study Group via Zoom / Friday April 7 at 2 pm Eastern Daylight Time
fee $15

In this online type history research session I will retrace my recent research into the history of the Robb & Ecklin type foundry of Philadelphia, its partners Samuel Ecklin and Alexander Robb, and their relationship to …
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Blue Pencil no. 68—Specimens of Wood Type 1900–2000

This is part of a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages. This is the second part of a list that focuses on specimens of wood type. It includes not only specimens from wood type manufacturers, but also specimens from type foundries that offer either wood type or large sizes of some of their metal types in wood. [1] The first part of …
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Blue Pencil no. 67—Specimens of Wood Type 1803–1899

This is part of a series of posts listing type specimens that have been digitized and placed online. Many of them are downloadable in whole or as individual pages. This is the first part of a list that focuses on specimens of wood type. It includes not only specimens from wood type manufacturers, but also specimens from type foundries that offer either wood type or large sizes of some of their metal types in wood. [1] The second part of …
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Letterforms Study Group—Fourth session 2 February 2023: Psychedelic Posters

The fourth Letterforms Study Group session was held on February 2, 2023 at Jack Rennert’s Gallery in Manhattan, one of the world’s leading poster dealers. The attendees were Marcos Baer, Patricia Belen, Patricia Childers, Greg D’Onofrio, Sam Henri-Gold, Earl Kallemeyn, Scott Santoro, Alex Tochilovsky, Beth Tondreau, and Carmile Zaino.
The fourth Letterforms Study Group session at Jack Rennert’s Gallery. From left to right: Marcos Baer, Earl Kallemeyn, Scott Santoro Sam Henri-Gold, Greg D’Onofrio, Patricia Belen, Paul Shaw, Patricia Childers, and …
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Letterforms Study Group—Third session 12 January 2023: Color and Letters

Spread from A Grammar of Color by A.H. Munsell (Mittineague: The Strathmore Paper Company, 1921). Illustration by Helen Dryden. Photograph by Vincent Giordano. Image courtesy of Mohawk Paper Company.
The third Letterforms Study Group session was held on January 12, 2023 at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Columbia University. Our host was Jane Siegel, Librarian for Rare Books & Bibliographic Services. The attendees were Patricia Childers, Liz DeLuna, Sam Henri-Gold, Steve Kennedy, Claire Lukacs, Scott Santoro, Rebecca Lehman Sprouse, Beth …
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Mad, Bad (but Good to Know): A survey of type specimens offline and online

Sonoma Plaza (Bear Flag Republic) from Historia: A Type Specimen (Berkeley, California: Emigre Fonts, 2010), pp. 20–21. Design by Rudy VanderLans.
Mad, Bad (but Good to Know): A survey of type specimens offline and online
Type@Cooper
13 February 2023
This is a list of the type specimens included in my Type@Cooper talk. Those that have been digitized and available online are marked in red. Where multiple digitized versions of specimens exist I have chosen either the one with the best visual quality or …
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Blue Pencil no. 66—James Mosley on the dating of several Imprimerie Royale type specimens

The authenticity of the date given for Épreuve d’un Nouveau Caractere pour l’Imprimerie Royale (Paris: Gravé par Alexandre, [1712]) in my list of type specimens from 1700 to 1769 (Blue Pencil no. 62) is considered spurious by type historian James Mosley. He wrote about it (and several other specimens of the romain du roi with questionable dates) in an article published by a French bibliophile society in 2002. Excerpts from a 2008 PDF version of Mosley’s article, which he …
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Addendum to Blue Pencil no. 61—a missing type specimen

Blue Pencil no. 61 Type Specimens 1486 to 1704 is a list of type specimens that have been digitized and made available online. It is not an attempt to list all known surviving type specimens. However, there is one undigitized specimen from this time frame that deserves to be mentioned: the 1525 Johannes Petri specimen that was in the library of the Börsenvereins in Leipzig prior to World War II and whose whereabouts today is unknown. Here is what …
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Letterforms Study Group—Second session 15 December 2022: Holiday Greeting Cards

Holiday card by Victor Trasoff (1952).
The second Letterforms Study group session took place on 15 December 2022 at the Herb Lubalin Center of Design and Typography at The Cooper Union. Curator Alex (Sasha) Tochilovsky graciously provided the meeting space again and also helped me sort through the Center’s collection of holiday greeting cards, the theme of the session. Although I had expected a large number of calligraphic cards, given Cooper Union’s longtime history of including calligraphy in its curriculum, we …
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Additional information on the history of the terms “Graphic Design” and “Graphic Designer”

Commercial Designer / Graphic Art Designer / Graphic Designer
In my recent post about The Daily Heller I asked for people to do serious research into the history of the terms “graphic design” and “graphic designer”. Alex Jay quickly responded to my plea with a lengthy email summarizing what he has discovered about “commercial designer”*—which he says encompasses the graphic and industrial arts—as well as about “graphic art designer” and “graphic designer”. I am posting an edited version of …
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