Part 1: The Snare of Authenticity
How much should a revival of a typeface look like the original? Well, just as with performing an old song — an analogy Matthew Carter has made — there is something you have to like in the original in order want to revive it. And you can’t depart from the original too much, or you lose the charm of the old song that appealed to you in the first place. But if it is too much like the old versions, it might be stale and dated, irrelevant. So what do you keep and what do you change? And change in what way? That’s the challenge every revivalist faces.
In the process of working on my own revival of Caslon — Williams Caslon — I came to two conclusions about revivals generally. First, the pursuit of authenticity is a snare and a trap. Don’t go there. Second, particularly if it’s an old typeface, it’s going to be harder than you imagined, and you can lose your way in the process. So you’d better start with a very clear goal for your revival, and stick to it.
Here’s the experience that led me to those conclusions. [More: here]