Herber Spencer "The Liberated Page" book cover, similar to Helvetica

Okay I realise that this one may jump out at you as being incredibly obvious, but it has me stumped!

Many thanks,



Arial, actually.

I don't think its either. The a is wrong for Arial as the join between the bowl and the stem curves, similar to Helvetica.

The angle of the stroke ends is off for Helvetica though, they are at a slight angle, but less than those for Arial.

It ain’t Arial! It’s Helvetica (Neue) 75 Bold for sure.

Arial, actually.

Quick! Edit the post! Edit the post! Mwahahaaa!

(You can’t see the curves on Helvetica when it becomes fatter. Especially the backside of a.)

The shame that comes with only looking at one letter.

Nice one Lari.

Poor Hank… ;^)

…that must be the biggest of the one letter shames.

Man, you’ve got to change that picture, you look so depressed!

The h and g aren't a good match either, I'm sorry to say. The counter in the g is very nearly round, and the join of the leg on the h is much sturdier.

The curve of the t is more of a straight 90º turn than Helvetica's drawn out curve.

There’s also Nimbus.

I did check out the regular before posting, but didn't realise the bold weight would sever the tail off the a.

It could be the bold though, thanks, now we are getting somewhere! Its hard to tell from the sample if the terminals are at an angle or not, does anyone know if they are?

I have a bad feeling the dot of i is different though, and I realise this is being very particular now, its just that it would be just be very nice to know for sure what particular font he was chose.

Thank you all,

True. Looking at the stroke ends in the 'e' I see a definite angle. Also, the bars in the lowercase 'r' and 't' appear stubbier than in my samples of Helvetica and Helvetica Neue.

There are lots of copies of Helvetica, happy hunting! :^)

But why would Herbert Spencer of all people use a copy?

Because he preferred that version? That'd make sense. O:^)

This has got to be the best id thread for a while.

Wooo hoooo...
I've got that book at home!
You folks can figure it out then I'll post the colophon.

Ha! Standard?

It's the old display cut of Helvetica seen in foundry type, film fonts, rub down type, etc.. The display version of Nimbus Sans is the only similar digital version.

I knew I was right! ;^)


The Liberated Page was first published in 1987, Bedford Press, San Francisco, though made and printed in Great Britain by the Camelot Press, Southampton. Foreward by Aaron Burns.

The only mention of production type is Monotype Grotesque 215 used for the text copy.

The dust jacket type looks slightly spread, more so than the book's title page (please excuse the poor repro due to a quick digital snap).

I tend to agree that it may be pre-PostScript version which is closest to Nimbus Sans, perhaps off a high-end digital imagesetter or phototype (the narrow "r" clinches it).

My treasured copied was given as a gift to all at the ITC Subscribers Lunch at Frankfurt, 1988.

The digital versions of Helvetica nearly all come from machine composition companies (mainly Linotype). Machine composition was primarily used for text. Thus, the digital versions of Helvetica are mostly based on designs meant for text setting.

Today, these same fonts are used for text and display. But digital Helvetica, used at display size, does not match the traditional display cuts, as you can see by this book title, because it is not the same design. It is a text design being used at a display size. I imagine most designers assume that Helvetica is Helvetica, until they come across something like this.

It would be great to see the display cuts of common typefaces digitized so designers could use them again. Most of them were left behind when digital type took over and the old type houses closed shop.

Mark, I completely agree that digital versions of display cuts would be great to see, though I fear the only ones who could truly appreciate them are typophiles.

In the Pre-PostScript past, designer often just specified type by type name and not by cut. It was frequently left to the type houses/type directors to refine the specifications. The majority of designers today know even less about optical scaling.

We've seen in many posts that designers find it difficult nowadays to justify the purchase of a single quality font, let alone a family. It's hard to imagine that there would be much of a market for display cuts since only a few can see the difference.

The great visual services typesetting shops provided to the advertising, graphic arts and broadcast industries are now lost. I think the only place you see such refinement is in individual custom type work and by lettering artist (such as yourself) for titles and logos.
May you live long and prosper!

Display cuts were not specified out of habit. If you ordered 48 pt metal type repro, you had to get a display cut. The time between Helvetica's arrival in the late 50s (a bit later in the U.S.) and the dominance of photo type was very quick with digital soon thereafter. Heads done on photo typositor were made from display cut drawings usually but that is not to say everyone did it that way. A lot of phototype headings were reworked by hand as well. Mostly, hand work was normal then and everyone was quite used to it. Today it is all digitally futzed with instead.


A quick thanks for everybody's contribution, and special thanks to Mark and Chris' great explanations of the history and 'developments' made in the transition to digital type, both particularly fascinating.

It is odd that despite having some knowledge about text and display cuts, I didn't at all connect or extend this knowledge to Helvetica. I guess, sadly (like many others I suspect), that I'm a casualty of the digital revolution. Despite the sad situation caused by the transition to digital technology, it is great to find a place where this knowledge is still alive and discussed passionately (and long may it go on). It is a very encouraging forum.

I must say however that you would think someone would duly honour 'one the most important 20th Century typefaces' by actually releasing what would be the complete family. I completely agree that it would be great to see more display cuts made available, as it seems a particularly odd situation for the industry to be in, although I don't really understand industry - but it doesn't seem to be in its own interest (whatever that is).

Funny enough Helvetica never was a favorite of mine, and I deep down I was hoping this sample was some forgotten alternative I could use instead as it immediatly felt better on the eye. It perhaps doesn't come across in the image, but it is nicer...

I would be a bit lost if I discovered Herbert Spencer was using knock offs all along!

Cheers all,