The Spectator: a leaf book

The Spectator: a leaf book from the The Book Club of California, printed by The Grabhorn Press, 1939
The Spectator: a leaf book from the The Book Club of California, printed by The Grabhorn Press, 1939

The Book Club of California has, over the decades published several leaf books—books about a historical publication that include a single page, or leaf, from the original, along with an illuminating essay about the era and the document. read more…

Merry Xmas, Happy Holidays, &cetera

Xmas salsa picante“Xmas” has been used in English for centuries. The X is an abbreviation for Christ, from the first letter of Greek Christos. First appearing in English in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the early twelfth century, it was spelled with Xp or Xr, corresponding to the Greek “Chr,” thus Xres mæsse meant “Christmas.” read more…

Confession: we once used a chop suey typeface

open and closed signs in chop suey typeface

Back in 2000, the owner of a popular Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego that we frequented asked us to create a customized open/closed sign for his entrance. He was a droll young fellow, so we came up with an absurdly conventional old-chestnut-of-a-design using a chop suey typeface and presented a proof to him in jest. Hot Chef (as he was called by admirers) loved it, and to our surprise, we produced it for him.

Bifur: A.M. Cassandre’s great Art Deco typeface

Bifur by A. M. Cassandre

We picked up a copy of Continental Type’s 1930 type specimen book, a lovely two-color catalog of metal type exclusively  available from foundries in England, France, Spain, Germany, Holland and Italy. It features the great poster artist, Adolphe Mouron Cassande’s bold, iconic 1929 Art Deco typeface read more…

Ed Benguiat (October 1927– October 2020)

Ed Benguiat

Ed Benguiat may be best known to the general public for his eponymous typeface, but he designed many typefaces. While working for Photo-Lettering, Inc (known as PLINC), and for ITC (International Typeface Corporation) Benguiat designed Barcelona, Bookman, Caslon No. 224, ITC Century Handtooled, ITC Edwardian Script, Souvenir, Tiffany and other popular faces. He was a teacher and a mentor. He inspired a collection of typefaces by House Industries. read more…

Benjamin Franklin’s waggish defense of John Baskerville’s type

Caslon specimen sheet, detail

In 1760, the American printer, Benjamin Franklin wrote to John Baskerville and paid him a visit.

Baskerville’s reputation, and even his eponymous typeface, had been maligned by “gentlemen” who may have been jealous of Baskerville’s talent, nonconformism, and increasing success. Baskerville used excerpts from one of Franklin’s letters as an “unsolicited testimonial“ in advertisements, but typographers will appreciate how clever Franklin was in his support of Baskerville: read more…

Lasting ephemera: Samuel Johnson’s “The Rambler”

Masthead, Samuel Johnson's The Rambler, 12 June 1750


The Rambler was a twopenny* sheet issued twice weekly in London between 1750 and 1752, each issue was a single anonymous essay. 208 periodical essays appeared, all but four written by Samuel Johnson. Dr. Johnson’s incentive was to pay the bills (“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”) while he was at work on his great Dictionary. read more…

Ampersands, &c.

Goudy Oldstyle Italic ampersand

The ampersand has been with us perhaps since the first century CE in one form or another. It’s a conjoining of the e and t, forming the Latin et, which means “and.” You can still make out both letters in even the most abstract designs since typographers know that the ampersand is a ligature and design it as such. Because ampersands are so highly stylized, they can add verve to a workhorse typeface. read more…