Rupert Murdoch's Apology Letter


Not with those r's.


I think you're right, Måns. Unusual choice. Is that News Corp's brand face?

Yep, that’s Life by Simoncini.

There is a connection, although doubt anyone at News Corp. remembers it. When Rupert Murdoch bought New York magazine in the late '70s, the text was set in Life. Coming in as art director in '79, I remember thinking, "Hell is this?"

I thought it was just a Times Roman clone, like "Press Roman" from IBM or the hideous English Times—artifacts of the era when fonts were not interchangeable on different machines and the manufacturers refused to license them in order to sell more machines. It probably was a clone. I am not sure when Linotype started releasing Times, although the London newspaper evidently was set on Linotype machines, but it was not until after the war. And Monotype did not license the design to anyone else, at least where we could get it in the U.S.

Francesco Simoncini is remembered as a type designer, but his matrix factory made good fonts for the Linotype machine, and I have to think they must have been cheaper in Europe, or he wouldn't have been so successful. LIke earlier Italian foundries such as Nebiolo, Simoncini's versions of classic styles were often as good as or better than anyone else's. Garamond comes to mind.

And as Life is an interesting version of Times, these foundries made interesting versions of styles that were in demand—and designs not available license. Of course there was rampant metal type piracy using electrotypes, but if you had any volume you thought about making punches, once you start making a punch, you might as well design your own. Simoncini needed to make hard matrices not just foundry type, and he had real design talent.

In the late 70s New York magazine was set on a Mergenthaler VIP, not a Linotype machine, although the magazine must have been set in hot metal when MIlton Glaser and Walter Bernard designed it.

After moving to the magazine a few years after Murdoch had swept away Clay Felker, Milton and Walter (a Glaser crony, J. C. Suares, had kept Life as the body type in the interim) I got to see it's quirky personality. Love that "r". And I appreciated that Life stod a little away from Times, which had already become over-familiar. I started using it for headlines as well. Seem to remember that VGC had photo display version.

So when I saw Rupert's apology ad, the font seemed to fit perfectly.

* * *

All of this makes me think about how much type design we've lost with the successive technology changes during my working lifetime. Francesco Simoncini died in the mid-70s, but the company was still offering matrices at Drupa in 1979. (Which you could buy and install on an East German Neotype typesetting machine, which was being sold in another exhibit hall.) Simoncini had absorbed Alder Traldi, which did its own quirky versions of classic styles. Few were ever digitized.

There are dozens of foundries whose designs are lost. Adler & Traldi was absorbed by Simoncini, and disappeared as well. And don't get me started on Nebiolo. Ludwig & Mayer, which had a partnership with Simoncini, persisted longer than most, and its library went to Neufville, but only some of the fonts have been digitized. Of course there are plenty of others in Europe and the U.S., whose legacy exists only in our memories.

Viva Simoncini!

Roger, I’ve been researching the history of 20th century typefaces in Italy for several years now and I did my Reading MATD dissertation on three designs by the Officine Simoncini. While it is true as you say that most of their catalogue was reissuing typefaces in the style of other established designs, Francesco Simoncini also made two very original contributions to the field of typeface design. The typefaces Delia & Selene, the former designed for classified ads and telephone directories, and the latter a news face, are very experimental and I would say even unprecedented. I’m not sure a direct revival of these designs would be necessarily useful, because they were tied to the printing technologies of their time, but they can teach us a trick or two on designing typefaces for today and tomorrow’s needs.

And the influence of Simoncini Garamond and of the “Einaudi house style” in the typographic landscape of present-day Italy shouldn't be underestimated. I did an informal study and at least 1/3 of the best-selling books in Italy as of about a year ago were still set in Simoncini Garamond. It is the face we are most used to read in Italy.

Unfortunately my research had to take the back burner due to my work relocation to California and other priorities, but I do hope to get back to it and finally publish my dissertation one day. It needs a lot of cleaning up work and some further wrapping up of a couple of loose ends but i hope it’ll make for an interesting read once it’s out. Oh and I also need to close some minor details like finding a publisher ;-)

Adler Traldi (no “&” in the middle, I believe) was indeed acquired by Simoncini, but I still haven’t found a good catalogue of the Traldi typefaces nor an inventory of exactly what got bought. Unfortunately a lot of the institutional knowledge about the Officine Simoncini died with Francesco. I am in touch two former employees and managed to interview them and put together some pieces of the puzzle, but it hasn'’t been easy. Another thing that should be done is for someone to study the Officine from an industrial point of view. For example, they built all the machines to make the Linotype matrices and later on the photocomposition equipment by themselves, from scratch. Simoncini studied as an engineer at Ducati and started his career there, and then after the war decided to take over his father’s Linotype repairing business & thus the Officine were born. Unfortunately my expertise is in typefaces and not in mechanics, but I’m sure there are many more interesting stories to come out the Simoncini history.

Oh, and I almost forgot: viva Simoncini, indeed!

LIke earlier Italian foundries such as Nebiolo, Simoncini's versions of classic styles were often as good as or better than anyone else's.

After past discussions we had, I have come to agree with Antonio that the specific value of Simoncini and Nebiolo contributions to our cultural heritage have been differently focused. Like you say, Simoncini typefaces were qualitatively excellent, and they focused on booksetting-aimed types. Nebiolo started earlier, but they concentrate more on "commercial" types, not in a deprecable sense, they just privileged types for commercial printing and the production of booksetting types was more limited, and of course we were in different times.
Nebiolo arrived quite late with original designs, compared to Germany, probably other european countries, or the United States, and this was mostly thanks to Raffaello Bertieri, which promoted the setting up of the internal studio, supported by the passion of the then-young Alessandro Butti.
Before 1924 the Nebiolo types were in their majority copies of german or american designs. Butti and Bertieri changed that.
Bertieri promoted also the expansion of the Inkunabula family, often used for art books, which was designed by Nebiolo initially in 1911, for the Turin International Exposition. Back then, only a size was cut, but then, as the studio was being set up, Butti under the direction of Bertieri added the other size masters, an Italic and a decorative incised version.

While Antonio has been concentrating on Simoncini, I tended to focus more and more on this period of Nebiolo. My research is occasional, and I see this reflects my different interest in type production, which is more cultural than industrial, but of course we may see the industrialization as part of the cultural change around the turn of the century.

Let's say I'm in the 1920s, while Antonio is in the 1950s and 1960s.
This kind of research is not easy, anyway, even if you are in Italy… :)

This is great insight into the Italian scene, and I am a big fan. Sorry about the Adler typo. I actually have an Adler Traldi specimen pamphlet (also from Drupa 1986), and will look for it in what could be politely called my archives. My memory is that it included a few Simoncini designs available for hand-setting.

Did not mean to indicate that Francesco Simoncini's legacy was merely a interpreter of popular styles, as was the case with Life. But there was a lot of that work to be done at every foundry in the era before licensing, and as Matthew Carter showed at Bitstream, that can take a lot of your time, but if you do it right you can often improve on the originals. This was clearly the case with Simoncini, and seems to be the Italian way.

Nebiolo falls into three eras. The early semi-generic library, including Egiziano, the font that led me to Nebiolo in the first place. I started using a Phototypositor settings of that typeface from the the Ryder type house in Chicago in 1970. Ryder told me that VGC had released Egiziano font, but it was not the same. I wrote a letter to them asking what was going on, and got a memorable, huffy reply stating that their font was licensed from Nebiolo and made from "inkless conversions." A letter to Nebiolo was answered promptly, but they could not provide any information on the history of the typeface. They imagined it was inspired by an American style, but their records were lost "due to war events."

Also from that pre-1924 era were a multitude of sans serifs in different widths and weights, and an impressive array of engraver-quality called, I seem to remember, "Fretti, Fili e Filetti."

The second I think of as the Raffaello era, and then of course is the Aldo Novarese era.

So far very view of the great designs from Torino have been digitized. We're still missing fonts from Inkunabula and Rafaello (I don't know if that font is by Bertieri) to Recta and Simplicitá. And on to Forma and Datillo, which are vastly better than any sans or slab of the last 20 years, but are lost to the digital world.

Roger, you may have missed last week’s Recta release.

@Roger: I think the simple division you make may be pratical somehow, but does not reflect the rich and complex transitions of Nebiolo along the years.
Bertieri’s contribution has been unvaluable, not just because he promoted the setup of the internal studio, but for all that he did as a publisher and more.

It was my desire to start a filological digital version of Inkunabula in my spare time, but in the end I opted for other things, which otherwise would be very unlikely to see the light.

In my opinion, there are no digital versions satisfying me, as of now, respecting the lead sizes masters. But I think this goes for the majority of the most important lead types of the 19th and 20th century.
I don’t like at all the way people tend to approach "revivals".

I just used Times New Roman for the parody holding page I did for my student paper.

Anyone want to typeID the signature? :)