I Love Typography

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The Writing Mistress

From around the beginning of the 1600s, there was a renewed interest in calligraphy. At the same time, women, known as writing mistresses, begin to teach handwriting and calligraphy to young women. Maria Strick in the Netherlands and Marie Pavie, perhaps from France, are the first two women to have their calligraphy copybooks published in print. The...

Death of a Typeface

Robert Granjon (1513–90) was a French type designer who, in 1557, invented a new style of typeface that was modeled on contemporary handwriting. It later came to be know as Civilité, after the civilité of etiquette books that the typeface often appeared in. Although Granjon wished for his Civilité to become the national typeface of France, it never...

Fun with Fonts

Today I launched two short multiple choice quizzes. The first starts at the beginning with Gutenberg, with questions about his life and his famous Bible. Some of the questions are pretty easy; others you might find rather difficult. The second game, Glorious Glyphs, tests your font identification chops by having you identify individual characters or...

Granjon’s Beautiful Bastard

When books began to be printed in the fifteenth century, scribes were not immediately redundant. The rich still commissioned them to produce deluxe manuscripts, governments and local authorities still required secretaries and copyists for administrative documents, and even printed books left spaces for decorated initials and other elements to be added...

The Most Dangerous Book in the World

On a cold morning in early autumn of 1536, in a small town on the outskirts of Brussels, William Tyndale was led from a tiny prison cell, then chained to a stake, strangled and burned. His crime? Daring to challenge the Catholic Church and his insistence on translating the Bible into English. Tyndale’s translation was […] The post The Most Dangerous...

Medieval Road-trips & the Invention of Print

We don’t know for sure what prompted Hans Gensfleisch to leave his hometown of Mainz in western Germany for Strasbourg in the south but leave he did, probably in the early 1430s. Founded in the first century BC by the Romans, under emperor Augustus, Mainz had for a time, after the construction of its cathedral […] The post Medieval Road-trips &...

Printed Pandemic: Plague Books

The Black Death of the fourteenth century, a disease named after the symptomatic boils and darkened skin caused by internal bleeding, claimed as many as 200 million lives. Even by the fifteenth century, when populations were just beginning to recover, outbreaks of the same plague were still regularly reoccurring throughout Europe. Header image: Detail...

From Farting to Fornication: Early print censorship

During the first half-century of printing in Europe (c. 1450–1500), there were few restrictions on the printing trade, either on who could start a print-shop or on what they chose to print. As new printers rushed to establish themselves and cash-in on this new technology, they sometimes sought protection in the form of privileges. The first […] The...

Fonts in Focus: two

For the first in this new series of Fonts in Focus, we visited the New York offices of Hoefler & Co. For this second installment, we remain in New York, just fifteen minutes’ walk from Broadway to Lafayette street and the stateside offices of Commercial Type, established in 2007 and headed by Christian Schwartz in […] The post Fonts in Focus:...

Point, don’t point

The pointed finger must surely be one of the oldest human gestures. In deep prehistory, long before the evolution of spoken language, and when we were considerably hairier, it is not difficult to imagine one of our primitive human ancestors pointing to a lion, a landmark, or a lemon. Title font: Courage from Positype.Fast-forward a couple […] The post...

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