Tutorials are instructive comments on various aspects of the practice of calligraphy, lettering and typography. They are based on my experiences as a designer and as a teacher.

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Further Thoughts on Nomenclature of Letterforms

In 2014 I published three posts on the subject of letterform terminology. It is something that continues to be vexing to many people, including myself. Since then I wrote Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017) with the assistance of Abby Goldstein. For the book she and I created what we consider to be an improved chart for identifying the parts of letters of typefaces. Instead of using a single typeface …
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The Rchive no. 21—Poets’ Row in Denver

In August I conducted a lettering walk in Denver for TypeCon 2015. As part of my preparation I spent the day before walking and driving around the city. My chauffeur and cicerone was Diane Wray Tomasso, former New York graphic designer and Denver preservationist, an excellent repository of knowledge of the city’s architectural heritage past and present. One part of the city which we visited but which did not make it into the TypeCon 2015 lettering walk was Poets’ …
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The Rchive no. 20—Neon in San Francisco

Here is a neon R from San Francisco. D & M Liquor at 2200 Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights is described online as a family-owned store—the “D & M” stands for “Dad & Mom”—that was established in 1935. This sign may date from the late 1930s, given the Art Deco flavor of its R. It is included in The San Francisco Neon Project blog, but without any information.
Detail of R from D & M Liquors
The lettering on the …
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Script Type Terminology: A preview of a new book

These pages are from The Roots of Script, the working title for a book on script typefaces that Abby Goldstein and I have been writing since 2010. They are part of the opening section titled “How to Look at Scripts.” Scripts are not like other typefaces. There is almost no existing terminology to describe their letter parts other than terms used in the world of calligraphy. We adopted many of them, but still ended up inventing others.
The first three sheets …
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Thoughts on Letterform Nomenclature

Having criticized most existing letterform terminology diagrams it seems only fair that I show what I use. These sheets were begun a few years ago for my SVA students but I have never found the time to polish them. Since they don’t yet have any arrows, circles or coloration to indicate exactly what is being described I have added some commentary. Please excuse the missing examples and other glitches. Perhaps this post will spur me to finish them.
The first two …
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The Nomenclature of Letter Forms: A Brief Review of the Literature

The Belgian typographer Fernand Baudin, in How Typography Works (and why it is important) (New York: Design Press, 1988) wrote, “Novices are mistaken when they suppose there should be a ‘technical term” for every product of their enthusiasm & ignorance.” (p. 98)*. Although Baudin wrote this at the beginning of the digital type revolution—his text was originally published in French in 1984—his words are still applicable today. Indeed, they seem especially relevant as the horde of contemporary type geeks seem to …
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The Rchive no. 19—The Terror of the Turks

Detail, Alessandro dal Borro plaque (Arezzo, Italy). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2008)
This unusual R is from a plaque marking the birthplace of Alessandro dal Borro (1600–1656) in Arezzo, Italy. Dal Borro was a nobleman and highly successful general who was given the nickname “Il Terrore die Turchi” for his successes in the wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. The plaque is signed A.F. Sandrelli and dated 1828. There is at least one other plaque in …
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The Rchive no. 18—Art Deco in Sunnyside

Detail, Phipps Garden Apartments in Sunnyside, Queens (New York City). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2008).
This Art Deco R is from a sign at the Phipps Garden Apartments in Sunnyside, Queens (New York), a housing complex that was built in response to the garden city movement begun in England at the turn of the 20th century following the theories of Ebenezer Howard. The movement, in response to the rapid shift in population to urban areas in the 19th century …
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The Rchive no. 17—Italian neon signs

Detail from pizzeria sign in Testaccio (Rome). Photography by Paul Shaw 2013.
This R is from the sign for Il Grottino, a pizzeria in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome. It is one of the best pizzerias for eating Roman-style pizza, but hard to find despite being on the busy via Marmorata. Its sign is discreet, faces only one way (towards the Tiber), is often obscured by trees—and only says “PIZZERIA”. Il Grottino was established in the 1930s but the sign is most likely …
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The Rchive no. 16—Three more from London

Arden House detail (Lambeth, London). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2014).
Arden House in the Kennington neighborhood of Lambeth, London was built in 1968. The name over the estate entrance is an excellent example of vernacular lettering: simple and unpretentious. The sans serif capitals are constructed out of flat strips of iron that have been cut and welded together. Combined with the bordering strips the design harks back to some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s lettering. The R is a plain grotesque/gothic.
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The Rchive no. 15—Hamilton Wayzgoose

R composition (2012).
At the 2012 Hamilton Wayzgoose at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin I asked Lucio Passerini, the Milanese master printer who was one of the letterpress demonstrators, to proof some grotesque wood type letters for me. I was a calligraphy demonstrator at the Wayzgoose and I used some of Lucio’s R prints as the basis for improvisational calligraphic compositions for attendees. This one came out the best in terms of both vivacity and composition. For …
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The Rchive no. 14—Superior Florists

Superior Florists (Manhattan). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).
Superior Florists, established in 1930, is one of the remaining floral and plant businesses in what used to be the thriving Flower District along Sixth Avenue south of Herald Square in Manhattan. The neon sign (script for “Superior” and sans for “Florist”) is dated to 1951 by Tom Rinaldi, author of New York Neon.

The Rchive no. 13—A London Trio

Metal R (Jermyn Street, Westminster, London). Photograph 2014 by Paul Shaw.
The latest addition to the Rchive is this metal inline R in a classical mode that I recently photographed in the St. James neighborhood of London. It is not from a typeface, though it reminds me of the R in Weiss Antiqua. The juncture of the leg to the bowl near the stem is also similar to Futura. The pink paint makes it look as if it had been …
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An appreciation of Frederic W. Goudy as a type designer

Most type designers today dismiss the accomplishments of Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947) because they fail to understand the state of type design in his lifetime, especially at the outset of his career.
A very short summary of the profession of type making is in order. From Johannes Gutenberg through Simon de Colines, the earliest creators of typefaces were printers who doubled as punch cutters. The first punchcutter who was not also a printer was Francesco Griffo da Bologna who cut punches …
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Michael Harvey’s opinions

Michael Harvey was always candid about his likes and dislikes in the overlapping worlds of calligraphy, lettering, lettercutting and type design. At the same time, he was very gentlemanly about them. Sometimes he kept them to himself or voiced them privately to friends and colleagues, such as myself. At other times he uttered them in public but always in such a way that there was no sense of meanness or rancor, just opinions borne of experience and long reflection.
One of …
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