Serif face revived/inspired from early Aldus/Griffo work...

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Matthew Desmond's picture
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Serif face revived/inspired from early Aldus/Griffo work...
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It begins without a sample of work. As I haven't started it yet.

I have however, downloaded a full copy of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which I plan on basing the revival/inspiration on. This book is seriously beautiful and I think this is as good as any as a starting point.

I can't seem to get through the completion of a serif face of my own design. So, to prove to myself that I can actually do it, I'm beginning from a historical model.

Since the Aldus/Griffo types were poorly "revived" in the early 20th century with Monotype's muddy Poliphilus, I figure there could stand to be a clean copy out there that is not Bembo.

My goals for the face will be as follows (critiques of any part of this are welcomed!):

1. The face should be suitable for book text.
2. The face will follow the work of Griffo as closely as possible from the printed samples available without being too literal. (Are there surviving examples of the actual type used? Are they accessible? What other sources should I be looking into?)
3. The family will include at least the following: Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, and possibly small caps and lining figures etc.

So, let me know what you think of all of this. Please pardon the thinking out loud.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Matthew Desmond's picture
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I'm working out some preliminary specs before drawing:

Cap height: 700
X-height: 412
Descenders: 275
Ascent height: 820

I'm thinking the capital thick strokes will be 90.

I'm trying to take an average measurement on many different impressions of each letter to get these specs.

Gerald Lange's picture
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Michael

Don't mean to dissuade you but this is an old road well traveled.

To my knowledge no punches or matrices exist. There are several good collections of the Aldine printed work (UCLA has a great collection) that would provide better information than a download. Even then, however, the problem is, you can't actually trust (in terms of authenticity) what you are seeing. See my post at

http://BielerPressii.blogspot.com

I did a four-year project concerning the Aldine materials at UCLA. Quite frankly, I don't think it possible to get a true representation of an Aldine face.

Gerald

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi Griffo fans!

very interesting work and discussion in progress. I am impressed as I usally am by the expert knowledge that one finds in this forum. Although the fun is reduced a lot after the pages redesign for it seems to me awfully slow now. That's kind of fun killer.
I am personally not a big Griffo fan for I always found Jensons characters more beautiful and even in the text. What was seen in Aldus printings as a progress i.e. the narrower character ruined the genious idea of having circles as basic idea for beauty. And not the circle of inner forms or else but as a whole as drawn from a pen. Jensons letters to my eyes are the more important ones to take as an example for learning about beauty. I am sorry its provoking from my side, maybe I am only frustrated of not getting response from fantastic guys as Raph, Hrant or William...

Matthew your pdf was impressing. I particularly liked the way you treated the 'h' here your face is soft and pen like as it should be. Maybe you can invest some time in the 'a' if you want. I attach a beautiful redesign from Malin and a rough sketch in Photoshop

best wishes
Stefan (Centaur fan ;-)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Stefan, concerning what were you expecting a response from me?

BTW, I also find the Jenson model far superior to Griffo's. I think
we talk so much about the latter mostly because Morison so badly
wanted a cause célèbre.

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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Both styles are very viable, both originally and in revival, so I don't have a strong opinion about this.

However, I do feel is that Griffo did make something of an advance over Jenson in making metal type more fully 'typographic', which is to say more 'invisible' by making the color more even, and the characters less calligraphic, and more restrained. The horizontal e is part of this.

Jenson is also great, but my feeling is that for small 12 pt and lower sizes the model set by Griffo may have an edge.

For example, Centaur is a more beautiful type than Monotype Bembo, but it doesn't work at small sizes, as far as I have seen. There have been a number of recent revivals or Jenson-influenced type, and maybe if I studied them I might change my mind.

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi hrant, hi William!

Hey! In fact I have great difficulties in finding the discussions in progress since the redesign. How is it possible to get a quick link to the discussions one has last made a response or anything. The search modus works very slow and I do not manage to find actual replies very easy. Its hard work for my patience ;-)
hrant, I didn't expect any precise response just have to get used that maybe some topics come to an end while others go on or start from new. I am a beginner with forum, guess I have to learn a lot.

I wanted to attach another secret for me in letter design ;-)

Nice to hear from you anyhow.
hrant what is your baskerville revival doing or wasn’t it you?
I sent to you something - not much maybe it didn’t arrive

so long
hope I will get better in using this forum

Stefan

Stefan Seifert's picture
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Hi William,

you are right anyhow what concerns Centaur for example in small sizes. Depends also a lot yet on the lack of ink means blackness specially in the smaller sizes. The Valdonega interpretation of Centaur has a beautiful 8 point size!! (even smaller than we are used to 8 point!) Heavy enough it is very readable and if use it as a footnote the colour of 12, 16 and 8 point perfectly match. If you close the eyes a little a page set in various size has the same colour density feeling! It is possible.
Ok, Adobe made some progresses in that direction but why are there forms always so rounded and weaky?
Look at Adobe Jensons g, its far to round, to nervous in its counterforms, doesn’t work like a real Jenson.

Ciao
Stefan

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I did get your email - I've just been lousy at replying... Sorry.

BTW, who's the bird?

> why are there forms always so rounded and weaky?

It's the air up there.

hhp

Stefan Seifert's picture
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:-))

>I did get your email - I’ve just been lousy at replying... Sorry.

No, I didn’t refer to the mail, I have sent to you a specimen of Baskerville and a printed page via post. Guess it swims somewhere in the atlantic... :-))
I am also lousy at replying. ;-)

>It’s the air up there.

Who's air? Are you living in the mountains? Besides all what I have seen so far in this forum is way better than Adobes fonts!

Stefan

Stefan Seifert's picture
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P.S:

>who’s the bird?

the bird is from one of Paolo Roversi beautiful photographs from Italian Vogue.
I find it stimulating during the design progress to watch human body forms (specially female I have to admit ;-) as I really think they tell us a lot about natural charming forms. This is what I am gaining at designing letters.

so far
think I have to eat now and go to bed! Sun goes down in Germany.
Besides it rained a week now..

Stefan

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Ah, something besides bills to look forward to in the mail - thank you! :-)

hhp

Dino Santos's picture
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Matthew,

I think that it could be a very good idea.
For better measurement and details, you may try read the book from
Peter Burnhill, Type Spaces, in-house norms in the typography of Aldus Manutius, Hyphen Press

William Berkson's picture
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Matthew, check out this thread and related ones. (Use Typophile's search utility.) I agree with Gerald.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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I thank you for your comments, Garry.

I agree that it is not possible to perfectly replicate Aldine forms using printed samples. And definitely not by averaging with software, because you're averaging a source form that is not accurate.

My version would be more inspiration than revival in the end. I plan on using the samples I have as a sort of framework to base my own original forms on.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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top: Original
middle: My letters blurred to replicate letterpress
bottom: My letters

Dan Reynolds's picture
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This sounds like a great project!

In your last sample above, I think that you should revisit the angle of the strokes of the letters. They seem to be more modern (Bodoni-esque… I know, that is over doing it, but follow along…) than old-style.

For example, the bowl of the P should begin to curve downward before it does in your sample. And the top of the O (12 o'clock) should be much thicker, as should 1 o'clock, while your 10 o'clock should be thinner. In other words, you need to rotate the angle of the stress a bit to the left around the "circle" as a whole (of course an O is not a circle, but I don't know what else to call it).

Also, your serifs appear to be flat-bottomed. I think they should curve, somehow.

I love your L. But could the top serifs, or at least the top right serif, be chunkier?

The pen, the pen! You must remember the pen! (Insert best-possible Yoda voice impression here…)

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Dan,
You're right. Before I get too far I should work some more human elements into the serif forms. I think they are too "constructed" looking as they stand now.

I'm not sure about curving the serifs. Maybe I'll do both types and get someone to do a letterpress print test to see which I like better. It would be fun to vary the amount of ink to see how that would affect the overall look.

I should probably focus on the font looking good on a laser printer though, as that's probably how it will get printed most of the time.

Regards,
Matt

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Here's a PDF of some updates:

http://www.madtype.net/pdf/poliphili_pdf_1.pdf (77kb)

Changes made include adding variation in the serifs as well as making the serifs slightly curved. I also fixed the contrast in the O to be more oldstyle.

Gerald Lange's picture
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Matthew

Very nice. I think, as Dan suggests, the dip in the serifs would help with the authenticity. If that is of concern.

How did you do this?

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Gerald,

I'm not sure I'm fully understanding your question...

I have been studying the images I found of the book closely.
Once I find a few good examples of a letter, I compare them and work out the proportions. There is definitely some guessing and some of my own flavor going into the design. It helps me a lot to have a model to begin with.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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OK, this is freaking me out. All of the Xs are backwards. The lowercase "x"s are normal. Could this have been a layout error or what? Very odd.

The question then becomes, should I keep it like this in my version?

Dan Reynolds's picture
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To answer your questions: Yes, and yes.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Here's another sample. I'm not sure about which form is best for the W. I obviously want to use the oldest form that fits in with the rest of the font. I haven't been able to find a timeline of letterforms to compare with. Also not sure about the J. I'm planning on offering a normal X along with the backwards one. Also, I think they have possibly got the Z backwards in the book also.

http://www.madtype.net/pdf/poliphili_test_uppercase_02_13.pdf (175k PDF)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> All of the Xs are backwards.

How very interesting. Could Griffo have so consciously been going against so-called "ductal logic"? That would be awesome, and a testament to his power as a designer.

> Could this have been a layout error or what?

Extremely unlikely to be a compositing error.
And almost as unlikely to be a casting error.

Definitely, absolutely, totally keep it. It would be such a statement. Certain people will sputter in outrage that "it's backwards", at which point the historical precedent (which happens to be the sort of thing they [also] worship) would be a dramatic and much-needed slap in the face.

hhp

Matthew Desmond's picture
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I think it's interesting, because I didn't notice the backwards Xs until I looked at other fonts! It actually doesn't look out of place on the pages of the book at all.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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An analogy to always keep in your toolbox. It isn't the separate glyphs that create the beauty of the typeface in use, it is the glyphs in conjunction with one another.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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That sort of thing only looks out of place to people who design
fonts with strict "ductal logic". Quite a small number of people
in the scheme of things.

hhp

Matthew Desmond's picture
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For sure, Tiffany.
Type is a machine and if any parts are broken, the whole machine is useless.

William Berkson's picture
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Matthew, I am skeptical that the backwards X won't cause problems. Digital type with offset press is an inherently exact medium, with less tolerance than letter press. I would look at things like SEXY and WAXWORKS to see whether having one diagonal letter different is going to look 'off'.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Testing is certainly in order, but there's no reason to be skeptical, simply because the conventional contrast distribution is a result of circumstance, not some Righteous Order. In type design Familiarity is routinely over-played by both conservatives and iconoclasts.

The interesting question is why would Griffo do it? The only clue, and arguably a tenuous one, I can think of is that "X" is almost never the first letter of a word, plus the tops of glyphs carry more visual weight, plus the "X" (and notably not the "x", which does maintain conventional contrast distribution) has a lateral spacing "issue". Maybe.

hhp

Alexander Kominek's picture
Joined: 10 Dec 2004 - 6:27pm
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But Hrant - what about ductal logic? Chirography? Are you trying to tell us that we should not design type based on a strict set of arbitrary rules but based instead on what is pleasing to the eye?

- Lex

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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What is this, a two-man show?! ;-)

hhp

Matthew Desmond's picture
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The backwards X is counter intuitive because it doesn't go along with the rest of the letters being derived from pen strokes.

Maybe Griffo was left handed?

William Berkson's picture
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The Z and z commonly have reversed stress, and that works, so, to repeat, I'm not dogmatically saying the reversed X won't work, just that it is wise to test.

You might also check other examples of Griffo's and Aldus's work to check whether the reversed X in your sample is a result of a mistake in casting the type.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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As William points out, in order to look nicer some characters have evolved beyond "ductal logic", and clearly that's not violating anybody's "intuition". My crazy idea is to let all the characters enjoy that!

> Maybe Griffo was left handed?

Interesting idea. If so, it's a good thing he never
ran the risk of being a student of Noordzij!

hhp

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Haha, Hrant.

I completely understand what you guys are saying, though.

This will most likely be my most tested face yet. Since the goal here is for a readable book text, I'll be attempting to get the color and forms to all be harmonious. If anything sticks out I will change it, even if it goes against what the source materials are showing.

Matthew Desmond's picture
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Hi again.
I would really like to get some more feedback on the actual letterforms and other details of this work in progress. Here is a new specimen page to look at, this time including lowercase:

http://www.madtype.net/pdf/aldine__text_test_02_16_2007.pdf (pdf 230k)

I'd especially like to hear from you, Gerald, as you have been immersed in the Aldine materials.

Features of the final fonts will be:

• Alternate brackets and parens that align with the uppercase in addition to the standard glyphs that align with the lowercase.
• Lots of ligatures (ff, fi, fj, fl, ffi, ffl, ct, st, etc.)
• Ending swash glyphs for "e" "m" "n" etc.
• Small caps included in each font.
• Both lining and old style figures included.

Once I get this regular weight completely locked in, I will then work on the bolds and italics.

I have to say that I am happy with how the font is looking when printed out. It's feeling more heavy duty to me than Bembo, which was my original goal.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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The flipped "X" seems just fine (although -interestingly- it looks too wide).

hhp

Claudio Piccinini's picture
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Hi Matthew, how are you? May I ask you why did you feel the desire to approach a typeface in such a "revival" spirit?

Could Griffo have so consciously been going against so-called “ductal logic”?
Griffo, as far as I recall, was killed in a brawl, so it could be…
Designing type wasn't such a "rigidly intellectual" activity, back then.

For everyone else: I'm sorry I disappeared for almost two years. It's not been a "defined" decision… I simply gradually stopped to work on letters, I had to reflect about what I was doing. I would like to restart (and see if I can change my job), although I still can't see clearly how.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Griffo was hanged for the murder of his son-in-law.
A brawl he would have won, thanks to his burin. ;-)

And welcome back!

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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>Griffo was hanged

The version I read is only that he was accused, and it is not known what happened to him--whether he was convicted and hung or eg. let go on grounds of self-defense. Also there is a version with the son in law and a version with the brother in law.

In general Griffo modified the handwritten ductus for more even color. This was his breakthrough, ever since imitated. Still the letters retain the 'underlying force' of the hand written models, as that was their point of departure.

Incidentally, to me the reversed contrast X looks like a mistake.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Different authors will confine themselves to different degrees of certainty.
Not many have written about how Griffo died (for reasons of decorum as
well as temporal remoteness) so I agree one shouldn't bet the house on it.
But of those sources who talk about his death I don't recall any that claim
anything besides hanging (for some in-law).

> This was his breakthrough, ever since imitated.

I think you're giving him too much credit.

> the letters retain the ‘underlying force’ of the hand written models

I believe often we see what we want to see. People see ductus in my own
work too. Middendorp even sees it in Legato, irrespective of Bloemsma's
consistent, driven and explicit anti-chirographic stance.

> to me the reversed contrast X looks like a mistake.

Which of course is to be fully expected.

But what would be interesting is how [a person like] you
would come to terms with the fact (or at least probability,
until we hear a better explanation) that Griffo did that...

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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>giving him too much credit.

Certainly Jenson was an important precurssor, but it was more fully executed with Griffo

>that Griffo did that

I am guessing it was a mistake in casting, so the type was upside down. Checking on the samples from 'Seneca' (with Griffo type) in Peter Burnhill's 'Type Spaces', the Xs don't seem to have reversed contrast. Though it admittedly is hard to tell exactly what is going on because the ink spread is so extreme. Also the fact that the lower case X's in Matt's sample are normal stress would tend to bolster the idea that it was a casting or trimming mistake. It could be part of his general effort to rebalance the color of the alphabet, but as I say I doubt it.

>a person like you

Oh you mean "delightfully open-minded." Thanks, Hrant :)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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> Jenson was an important precurssor

Jenson was Griffo's "father".

> a mistake in casting, so the type was upside down.

For that to be plausible the descender space needs to be equal to the ascender space, otherwise the "X" wouldn't sit on the baseline. Is this the case? Plus the matrix would have to fit in the mould upside down - although I don't know enough to claim that wasn't possible.

And what are the chances that Aldus/Griffo wouldn't have noticed/minded?

> ‘Seneca’ ... the Xs don’t seem to have reversed contrast.

Clearly a mistake in casting. ;-)

BTW, I just meant conservative.

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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>conservative

By my lights, I am not a conservative, either in type or politics, but a reformist. Reformism, as formulated by my late teacher Karl Popper, is the idea that we appreciate tradition as a source of strength, but criticise it, and make reforms to change and improve it where we find it lacking.

Thus in type revival I do not believe that literal, 'authentic' revivals are worth the effort. But I do think that making 'contemporary classics' is worth the effort. Here I would include such faces as Slimbach's Garamonds and Carter's Miller.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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OK then, you find less lacking in tradition than average. Same difference.

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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>less lacking in tradition than average. Same difference.

No, it is not a question of less or more, it is a question of changing tradition critically, rather then knee jerk change or persistence. In some areas I find more wrong with tradition than others do, in some places less.

I find both conservatives and radicals annoying because they know the solution before they hear the problem. Change for a good reason, not because of a general rule.

Like you, I am interested in readability in text type. So I would say, there are good reasons to forget about reviving Bodoni as a text type, but to go for reviving Griffo's types for text.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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To me, you're having a knee-jerk reaction to being called something you
essentially are but don't want to call yourself. Terminological differences
are fine; hiding behind them is not.

hhp

William Berkson's picture
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>hiding behind them is not.

My views don't fit into your boxes, so how about expanding your boxes?

On the possibility of getting it upside down: My understanding is that punches were struck into a copper strip, then a rectangle was cut around the strike, and this fitted into the adjustable mold. The cutting of the copper matrix was a skilled job, as it would also involve fitting. And it was often done by someone other than the punch maker.

So I'd think it would be pretty easy to make a mistake, especially in these very early days of typefounding.