MacKellar, Smiths, and Jordan "Archaic"


I'm looking for a font similar to MacKellar, Smiths, and Jordan's "Archaic".


Rowan Oak has some mildly similar aspects.

Thanks. I wish there were something more similar.

Cut by Hermann Ihlenberg in 1888. Serifs in the "Latin" [triangular] style, broad pen nib terminals, the height of font fashion for the era.
No digital equivalent.
Apparently a "lost" type -- last seen in a phrase in Philips Old Fashioned Typebook, 1945:
Dan X. Solo did not collect it.
I don't have a complete alphabet, but here are more letters:

Thanks, Don, for all that research and the additional letters! I wasn't familiar with Dan X. Solo.

If you want specimens of old American typefaces, Dan X. Solo's Alphabets series, as published by Dover, are a great supplement to the foundry specimen books. He started to digitize some of these but the project seems to have ended a decade ago. Many font-makers mine his books for alphabets to digitize. There is also an online encyclopedia of his Solo Catalog, called the Solopedia, which is an first class finder's guide to digital fonts based on the fonts mentioned in the Solo catalog, including digitizations based on other sources.

I have been looking for some fonts that have revived looks from this time period, and there are not many that feel very close to "Archaic". I did search the Solotype fonts and http://Memorial was perhaps the most similar.

Some other 1800's-looking fonts: http://Emerge BF; and http://Floridium Pro LV, which I use a lot.

- Mike Yanega

Hi Mike, you probably know this already, but I thought I would mention it for people who are not familiar with Dan X. Solo
a true original character, he excelled at transforming the old fonts, wider, thicker or the reverse, add a lowercase, you name it, he did it.

The font information on Floridium says that it was the source for the ‘banana’ and ‘snake head’ serifs. I wonder what other fonts have these unusual serifs?

I note Mike's reference to Emerge BF.
The font information on Emerge BF says that it was inspired by Admiral from the Keystone Type Foundry. Here is a sample of the original Admiral from Keystone's specimen book of 1906.

There is a faithful, but unpolished, recreation of Admiral in the free font AdmiralDavyJones. Available at Follow the link in the third paragraph to the "list of all fonts" then find "Admiral Davy Jones" on the Alphabetical list and click on the entry "Admiral Davy Jones" for the font and descriptive information. Also enjoy the tongue in cheek history of the font. Also for a portrait of Admiral Davy Jones sitting on his locker at the bottom of the sea

Mike, thanks a lot for the font recommendations.

Don, thanks for all the info on Dan and the Admiral specimen. You seem to know quite a bit about typography; do you remember how you discovered that, "that serifs in the 'Latin' style were the height of font fashion for the era"?

I said
--- start quote ---
Serifs in the "Latin" [triangular] style, broad pen nib terminals, the height of font fashion for the era.
--- end quote ---
The phrase "the height of font fashion for the era" refers mainly to "broad pen nib terminals." In the sample, note the terminals on the letters _E_, _F_, _S_ and _T_, although the comment includes fonts which have both these terminals and Latin serifs. Regret any confusion. I probably should have expressed the idea more clearly.

Thanks for clarifying. I was just curious how you (or anyone) discovers what the fashion in fonts is for an era. I found the book "Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers" and found it helpful, and I'm sure there are similar books. Ideally, I'd find a list of "most popular fonts" for each decade for, say, the USA. I imagine the most accurate approach is to just look at many samples from the period.

I agree the best way is try and find fonts in use. An academic looking for a research project could go though the advertising in magazines, leaflets etc for the era and compile a data base what were used most frequently year by year. A rather time consuming project requiring some familiarity with the fonts available. AFAIK nobody has yet attempted this. The usual way to do this would be for a prof to put his students on the task and publish the results under the prof's name.
The foundry specimen books can be misleading. Many fonts were offered but few became popular. The main use of these books is to identify fonts that were offered for many years -- popularity in terms of duration if not necessarily in terms of extent of use.

Yeah, the point about specimen books being misleading dawned on me some time after I'd inquired about Archaic. I've jumped around a bit in looking for typefaces. Thanks for your insight, Don.

I suppose one use of the specimen books as a measure of popularity of a typeface is to look at the degree to which "me too" typefaces were created.
Designs that were popular with customers were quickly mimicked by very similar fonts from competitors. Not identical but the same fashion features.
Takes some judgement and digging to find these, but they are a good index of popularity. A good job for an academic with some money to spend and a publication credit to get. For example look at 1890s ATF fonts, then at the creations of Inland and BB&S. Tantalizing info.

That's interesting. I found an ATF specimen book from 1898: and an Inland book from 1897: and a BB&S book from 1907: That was about it from the 1890s from those foundries at Have you seen other specimen books from them? Where did you find them?

Have you ever seen body text (which I hope means text other than headlines) from that time period that was in some font other than something that looked really similar to Times New Roman, such as a sans serif?

There are several more specimen books at Use various search terms such as typefounding, printing type, type and type-founding, Printing -- Examples, type specimens, printing etc. and they will be revealed.
If you look in the old specimen books you will see a section of smaller scale type which is for body text. Some are very different from Times. For example check Ronaldson with its big sweeping terminals on letters such a E,R, L and S. Or French Old Style, Lightface etc. Off hand, I don't recall any sans-serif for use as a body text. This is not to say that a sans-serif was not offered for that purpose.

Yeah, I just didn't find much else at from the foundries you mentioned from that time period.

I like that Ronaldson is different and was described as being the "best selling" in the 1900s at Myfonts. I imagine most folks who aren't into graphic design just wouldn't notice much of a difference between it and other transitional or old-style typefaces.