Researching type by chronological usage

Juggling man's picture

Hello, I'm an occasional lurker of this forum and I am posting to pick your typophile minds.

I am currently working on a corporate identity project requiring that I research fonts in common usage in the years 1870 - 1900. I have thought of a few ways to do this. Microfilm being the most efficient.

Can you suggest other ways of going about this please?

Also can you suggest where I could find authentic fonts from that era?

Thank you very much

Don McCahill's picture

You might visit the websites of the current type publishers. They often will specify the year a font (or an earlier version of a font) was created. This will of course give you initial dates of use, but fonts created 100 or more years before 1870 might still be in use.

Rather than microfilm, you might find that a university library is a good hunting ground for old type. A long established library will have many books on the shelves that are over 100 years old.

Juggling man's picture

thank you! I had not thought of the Uni Library. Let's hope the local schools have what I'm looking for.

I have been getting closer to what I'm looking for.

I'm hoping to study typefaces such as the ones found in the GRAND THEATRE and BLACKPOOL posters found here

And the stuff Christopher H. Bing used in his re-design of "Casey at the Bat" in 2000.

It's the first time in my life as a designer that type strikes a deep and resonant nearly emotional chord in me.

(sorry, no pics of the interior spreads which are stellar! That first spread blew me away! I finally understood the genius behind the genuine typesetters of the era he was emulating.)

I simply must study this further. I am quite possessed by this in fact.

Don McCahill's picture

Those posters are hand lettered. I want to say hand drawn, but I suspect they were created as woodcuts. I've long harboured a fantasy of building a font based on one of these, a Grand Trunk Railway timetable from about that time.

I just looked, and can't find a link to it, but you might find the two sites below of interest. Railway and Steamship schedules of that era should have similar work.,%20Cover.jpg

Juggling man's picture


that first grand trunk poster is awesome!

I also saw something while watching "The Illusionist". A poster that simply says EISENHEIM I can not find an image. Anyone know what I'm reffering to? Where I could get my hands on fonts of that nature?

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