Typo. A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review [1887-1897]

kris's picture


From 1887—1897 a chap called Robert Coupland Harding wrote, composed & distributed a periodical called 'Typo'. I've seen them in the flesh, they're utterly fascinating. Amongst other things, he was receiving type specimens from all the important international foundries, which was seemingly unusual for the time. What's even more interesting is that he reviewed the new typefaces with honesty & wit. The good news is that the whole lot has been digitised & is available online.

This is the introduction by Sydney Shep, this is the table of contents for all 11 volumes.

Have a poke around. There's bound to be something in there of interest.

From the intro:

"Typo. A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review [1887-1897] is a landmark in New Zealand printing and publishing, famous in its time, then forgotten, and now re-discovered. In addition to a wealth of information ranging from the latest domestic and international news about printing and the allied book trades, Typo includes book reviews such as Julius Vogel’s Anno Domini or Women’s Destiny , tipped in specimens featuring a full-colour cover design for Edward Tregear’s Potona, or Unknown New Zealand , and articles about the latest developments in phonography, stenography, universal language, and “Kaliografi.” This periodical is an example of a worldwide phenomenon of the nineteenth century, the typographical journal. What sets it apart, however, is the attention paid to its visual display. The series of articles entitled « Design in Typography » are both singularly important and astute contributions to the international dialogue about aesthetics and offer clear and concise instructions to the practical printer."

About Robert:

"Robert Coupland Harding. has often been portrayed as New Zealand’s most accomplished typographer and printer, but today he remains virtually unknown. Historically resting in the shadow of William Colenso (1811-1899) who is famous for printing the Bible in Maori and the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, Harding’s story is a compelling example of technical virtuosity overlaid with pointed critical acumen, quiet self-possession punctuated by determined professionalism. From 1887-1897, he singled-handedly wrote, composed, printed and internationally distributed Typo. A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review. This journal represents the pinnacle of a career devoted to the world of visible language."

Stephen Coles's picture

Love this, Kris. Thanks so much. I've only tapped the surface, but the continuing series on ribbons and scrolls is my favorite bit so far.

Stephen Coles's picture

Do they note the typefaces they are using throughout Typo? Not in the colophon. Wondering because the sans serif could be from the same source that inspired Ludwig. Or maybe it's as much Bureau Grot.

Mark Simonson's picture

Looks a lot like Miller & Richard's Grotesque series.

Mark Simonson's picture

Oh, and thanks, Kris, for posting this.

quadibloc's picture

I came across this New Zealand site recently in a web search, as there happens to be an account of the ATF Self-Spacing Type in the publication, as well as a series of articles on type measurement before the point system.

nina's picture

Kris, what a wonderful resource to be digging through! Thank you for posting this.

BeauW's picture

So much to read and see here,
thanks for linking to this.

Weird and wonderful images, as well as stories. My lithographer friend was very amused by the suggestion of using strong tea to clean zinc plates instead of the usual beer or tobacco.

evanmacdonald's picture


So much to look through. Thanks for this! Wouldn't it be wonderful to get a facsimile in book format?

Good stuff. Very good.

evan m

quadibloc's picture

Indeed, they were appropriately cautious when they noted in the article at


that by the year 2000 foundry type might no longer be in use. On the other hand, they were over-optimistic about the march of progress when they speculated that English spelling would be reformed by then as well.

And while printing houses may be without types, they are not without presses or ink - even though laser printers do make that sort of thing possible, it is not usually the most economical way to proceed.

Mark Simonson's picture

Mind-boggling, isn't it? We sit here at our keyboards and smart phones, typing our thoughts, and seconds later it's been composed into pages and published worldwide for hundreds or thousands (well, maybe dozens) to read. Talk about movable type. Those guys had no idea.

eliason's picture

Nice use of an ornament in this report about the doings of a Mr. Fish:

Thanks for sharing this!

Mark Simonson's picture

I think that's his avatar.

eliason's picture

Whoa, you're right - here's how it appears in the following issue!

Wondering because the sans serif could be from the same source that inspired Ludwig. Or maybe it’s as much Bureau Grot.
But nobody closes up the apertures of their sans like this!

nina's picture

What's up with that flipped opening question mark that Beau W posted? Was that commonly done?

BeauW's picture

He does that a couple times, as if he is using them in the style of quotation marks.

I remember reading (but don't remember where) about the various attempts at punctuation reform that were attempted by creative typographers over the years. The article (book?) specifically mentioned question marks, but gave the interobang as an example.

This definitely caught my eye, although mostly by engendering confusion:)

(I like it more than the damn smiley, especially on web-forums that automatically replace my p) with some winking face)

hrant's picture

An opening question mark would be most welcome in English. Spanish is lucky to have it - and they actually can use it mid-sentence on individual words! Same with the exclamation mark. BTW, Armenian does that with floating marks (placed on individual vowels).

And Kris, again: Thank you! That guy was like a century ahead of his time.


eliason's picture

What’s up with that flipped opening question mark that Beau W posted? Was that commonly done?

I don't think so. I don't remember seeing it before, and it doesn't appear in Legros and Grant's Typographical Printing Surfaces (1916) which is quite exhaustive in illustrating sorts.

quadibloc's picture

On my web site, I give a description of an imaginary programming language in which X ! was gamma(X + 1) but ! X was X * i, i being the principal value of the square root of -1.

But I also included a quaternion data type in the language. So, if the character set available included the opening exclamation mark and question mark of Spanish, I used them as unary operators to multiply numbers by j and k.

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