Category Archives: Type and Design

About type, typography, typefaces, printing and book and general design.

Carol Twombly again!


Genius font designer Carol Twombly may have left Adobe a decade ago, but her fonts live on. This one, Lithos (used for the phrase “the landmark musical event”), graces a Lion King poster in downtown Sydney in 2014. Every Greek fish and chip shop uses it, all over the world, from Alaska to Zanzibar. It’s everywhere!

Morris’s Horace

Is this a silly fantasy, or is it deeply valuable? William Morris: The Odes of Horace, written and decorated by hand.

‘We seem to have been granted access to a treasure: vulnerable, threatened by the very transience that Horace’s odes resist and lament, and therefore all the more highly to be prized’ Clive Wilmer

The genius of William Morris found expression in many different media. Here, for the first time, we have reproduced one of his gems of manuscript illumination: The Odes of Horace, a treasure of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Produced by the Folio Society.

Production Details: • Limited to 980 copies • Facsimile volume • Printed on Tatami paper in coloured inks with gold and silver foil • Bound in Indian smooth-grain goatskin with 5 raised bands on the spine • Gold blocked on spine, edges and doublures • Shuffled pages • 192 pages • 6¾” x 5″ (I’m not sure what “shuffled pages” means. Cards, yes. JT)

We’re With You, Ray!

The poster in the background of the Martin Johnston photo (in the window of Exiles bookshop) was a silkscreen poster I made in support of prison escapee Ray Denning. Silly me. Oh well: it was a good design, based on a motto I saw on a back fence in Glebe, Sydney, in 1979.RayDenning

A more useful Main Site


Encouraged by a visitor who just couldn’t find any poems on my Main Site, I have made the design of the Homepage a little less obscure and I hope much plainer and more helpful. You can find a direct link to it (and thus to hundreds of poems and so forth) near the top of this page, behind the link labelled “My Main Site”.

The top right corner of my Main Site homepage now looks like this:

Death of a Pressman

Death of a Pressman, by Fritz Swanson: A remembrance of Tom Trumble, letterpress pressman, and a meditation on preservation and nostalgia

In 2010, there were more than 200,100 printing-machine operators working in the United States, a modest growth from the 140,000 pressmen and their assistants employed in 1975. The increase precisely mirrors the population growth over the same period. But absent in the numbers is the fact that over that time, letterpress printing has gone from being a declining but still important technology to a virtually extinct practice. Once, letterpress machines were at the center of the printing industry, their care and use taught in high schools across the country. Today, the majority of the pressmen who run monstrous web-fed offset presses would see a clacking Gordon-style jobber press as, at best, a quaint toy; at worst, an irritating and cumbersome relic.

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Pi in the Sky

Many denizens of the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley noticed a long series of cloudy numbers in the skies around noon on Wednesday, September 12. No, their coffee wasn’t spiked with hallucinogens.

The ephemeral event, known as Pi in the Sky, utilized five aircraft with dot-matrix skywriting technology to write out a thousand numbers of the beloved mathematical constant pi (3.14159..) at a 10,000-foot altitude. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the numerals of pi written in the sky each stood nearly a quarter-mile tall, stretched for a 100-mile loop, and undoubtedly caused mass inspiration and confusion all at once.

Quoted with thanks from: C|Net’s Crave site. Photo credit: Bradley Bozarth.

Only in San Francisco…

What is Skeuomorphism?

The immensely useful and free encyclopaedia Wikipedia provides a clear definition of “skeuomorphism” (skeuos vessel or tool, morphe shape). A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new item appear to be comfortably old and familiar, such as copper cladding on zinc coins, to make them look like old pennies, or computer printed postage with a circular town name and cancellation lines, meant to resemble the original circular stamps used by humans in post offices.

An alternative definition is “an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material”. This definition is narrower in scope and ties skeuomorphs to changes in materials.


The word is recently popular in English in 2012, I suspect because of the furore about Apple’s skeuomorphic designs for its ubiquitous computer software. See the little bit of torn paper just below the fake-leather strip across the head of the fake paper iCal calendar in the picture, just below the fake-embossed word “Year”? Torn paper? On a computer screen?!?! What were they thinking!?!?

But relax! The practice goes back to the birth of civilisation. Ancient Greek architecture abounds in skeuomorphism.

I like the Corinthian column, the capital (top) of which carries an ornate carved and originally painted stone representation of the acanthus leaf once used to decorate the top of the original wooden columns that long before had preceded the stone versions.



Egyptian columns, with their tops carved and painted to resemble plants abundant in the waters of the Nile — lilies or bundles of the lotus or the papyrus reed — were no doubt the inspiration for this later practice.

Wikipedia notes that blue jeans have authentic-looking brass rivet caps covering the functional steel rivet beneath; they further note that some digital cameras play a recorded audio clip of a conventional single-lens reflex camera mirror slap and shutter click. And so it goes.

Other examples:

I love these: they’re so silly! Tiny, non-functional handles on small glass maple syrup containers. The containers were once large earthenware jugs, which needed a handle. Not any more, but the handle still says “maple syrup”, even if the little bottle contains — yes, you need to take out your glasses and read the fine print — 99 per cent corn syrup.

Lost Things in the Garden of Type

Printing Press

I went to the South of France recently, to visit my Aunt Helene. She’s getting on now. When she was still a relatively young woman she gave up her typographic practice and moved to a retirement village, the Home for the Disappointed on the little island of San Serife, in the Mediterranean. The people in Bembo, the only town on the island, are mainly employed in the printing and publishing industries, so she feels at home there.

Aunt Helene has her own cottage, with a garden out the back: she calls it the Garden of Type. It’s a place for abandoned things, she says, and typefaces that have been lost and then found again. When the weather’s misty she wanders down there in her slippers and turns over the soil and kicks things around.

Nothing seemed to grow there now, and I asked her what the garden was for. ‘To remind me to remember to remember,’ Aunt Helene explained. ‘Soon I’ll be the only one left who remembers what metal type looked like, or what blotting paper was for.’

‘You sound like Henry Miller,’ I said. ‘I remember he wrote a book called «Remember to Remember».’

‘Miller? He remembered nothing. He made things up. Did you know that an ancient Greek invented the art of memory? Simonides. He’d write you a poem for twenty pounds. He wrote a lovely elegy for the Spartans who died bravely at Thermopylae — for a fee, of course. Poets composed and memorised their works in those days. But then someone went and invented paper, and the art of memory has been quite lost.’ She seemed pleased with the thought.

Typefaces: New Fournier BP

The image below is a text of page 218 from Oliver Bernard’s excellent translation of Rimbaud’s «Collected Poems» (Penguin, 1965). The poem has been typeset here in New Fournier BP, a face designed by François Rappo in Lausanne, Switzerland. The face is fully OpenType compliant — well, almost. More below.

Until a year or so ago… say, until 2014… The face was for sale on this website. Then, alas, it disappeared. This may have something to do with the fact that Apple computers began rejecting the font when OS X Lion appeared, as it failed certain Apple tests including kerning table tests. Shame! Please revive it!

The foundry says:

Francois Rappo
François Rappo

New Fournier BP is a contemporary translation of the equilibrium and elegance we find in the typography of Pierre-Simon Fournier. It possesses a particular dynamism and variety due to its pretension to rediscover the graphic style of 18th century France in a form that is both digital and contemporary…

In the spirit of Fournier’s “programme”, New Fournier has been developed into a very large family that includes three different designs corresponding to three specific sizes for the font’s use: book, adapted to continuous text and optimised for comfort while reading; big, optimised for continuous text but comprising a more historic and detailed design; and headline, in which the contrasts, graphic expression and details of the design have been optimised for composing titles. These three designs are further divided into two x-heights: New Fournier BP, with a normal x-height, and New Fournier BP Large, which has a high x-height. The two groups are complementary.

Below, a sample.


These 3 posts are about Fournier: 1. Barbou  2. Corundum  3. New Fournier BP

Digital Fournier, almost

The page offers images of a scan reproduction of a photo-litho offprint of some Monotype metal-set Fournier (Oliver Bernard’s translations of Rimbaud’s Collected Poems, Penguin, 1965), the same text typeset in digital Fournier (Adobe, designer Carol Twombly), and the same text set in Corundum, a recent typeface by the Joshua Darden studio in Brooklyn USA.

Thanks to the Darden Studio for rescuing this distinguished font for the digital realm.

The first image, below, is a scan of page 218 from Oliver Bernard’s excellent translation of Rimbaud’s Collected Poems (Penguin, 1965). It was originally set by Clays Ltd, Bungay, St Ives, UK, in Monotype Fournier metal. The proofs were photographed and printed photo-litho; this is a scan of that text.


The second, below, is a modern setting of the same text in digital Fournier. Note how anaemic the font appears (relatively speaking!).

Rimbaud text reset in digital Fournier

The third, below, is the same text set in Corundum, a font cut by Joshua Darden in Brooklyn USA. The font has issues with InDesign, serious issues, as it is not designed to conform with the OpenType font specification, but with a few kludges, it works. Note how the italic is (at last!) the same height as the roman.


The last image, below, is the three texts set in (l to r) Monotype Fournier metal, digital Fournier and digital Corundum. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Rimbaud text set in (l to r) Monotype Fournier metal, digital Fournier and digital Corundum.
Rimbaud text set in (l to r) Monotype Fournier metal, digital Fournier and digital Corundum.

Now, when are we going to find a fully OpenType compatible font based on Fournier, so that everyone can use it when they send their poetry manuscript to their publisher? Yes, it does exist… Stay tuned…

These 3 posts are about Fournier: 1. Barbou  2. Corundum  3. New Fournier BP

Barbou, the Font that Monotype Forgot

Fournier: Manuel Typographique
It’s hard to believe that Monotype, a successful company and a great font house with a history of brilliant design behind it, could cut two slightly different versions of a distinctive eighteenth-century font, and choose the wrong one to preserve; but such happened in the 1920s to “Fournier” — attractive enough, if a little plain — and its more beautiful sister “Barbou”. The great typographic historian Stanley Morison described what happened. (In his account below, the “typographical adviser” who was absent abroad was in fact Mr Morison himself.) One can well imaging the trembling teacups and curt conversations when he returned to find that Monotype had preserved the wrong font. Mr Morison was largely responsible for the design of the ubiquitous “Times New Roman” in the early 1930s.

These 3 posts are about Fournier: 1. Barbou  2. Corundum  3. New Fournier BP

Continue reading Barbou, the Font that Monotype Forgot