Morris Fuller Benton’s Souvenir

I am looking at some lead typefaces of the 1910s and 1920s and I wished to ask if someone has pictures of the 1914 original version of Souvenir, by Morris Fuller Benton (I haven’t found so much online).
I have come to appreciate the new design which Ed Benguiat did for ITC, but I would like to see how the original looked in print.
Any help is really appreciated.
Many thanks in advance! :-)

HVB's picture

It's in the 1923 ATF Specimen book. I can't insert an image here, but you can find it by going to Google Books and searching for

ATF Catalog 1923

It's on one of the sample pages.

I also tried to attach an image of the google-books excerpt that found that source. It's from "The Secret History of Letters" by Simon Loxley. It states that there's a specimen in the 1923 edition of the ATF catalog. Still can't insert, so here's the text rewritten:

"His [Benton's] other durable face was fifty years ahead of its time. Designed in 1914, Souvenir was offerec to the trade in the early 1920s. It appears in the 1923 specimen book, but curiously, given ATF's belief in the type family, it came in one weight only, with no italic. This apparent lack of confidence in the design was reflected by market response, and Souvenir died an unlamented death. However, in 1967 a company called Photo-Lettering revived it for one of its accounts, and two years later the face achieved high profile when a redrawn version, known as Eastern Souvenir, was created for the new identity for Eastern Airlines. Souvenir is a face that is intractably rooted in style to a particular era, although one a half-century after its creation. It is a quintessential alte 1960s and 1970s typeface, informal, with full rounded character shapes and rounded serifs, a laid-back Cheltenham."

[I sure wish that image insert was working]

- Herb

quadibloc's picture


you will want




piccic's picture

Many thanks to both, I’ll have a look! :-)

HVB's picture

For some reason, Quad's link was corrupted into a Typophile Wiki reference.
So did my first few attempts here - I have no idea what I did but this one seems to work.

- Herb

PublishingMojo's picture

Ed Benguiat's Souvenir was enormously popular in the 1970s. It became the obvious choice for anyone who wanted a casual, contemporary look. By the mid-1980s, Souvenir had turned into a cliché, and designers joked about it the way they do now about Papyrus and Comic Sans.

By the time PageMaker and QuarkXPress came on the scene, Souvenir had fallen out of popularity, so a whole generation of designers (and designer wannabees) never added it to their repertoire. Maybe it's due for a revival.

Like Papyrus and Comic Sans, Souvenir is a little too soft and flabby for general use. It has its niche, and that niche is things like a menu for a restaurant that specializes in ice-cream sundaes, or a logo for baby-care products.

hrant's picture

Maybe it's due for a revival.

OK, I found a baseball bat - where do you live again? ;-)


PublishingMojo's picture

Hmm, that escalated quickly ;-)

hrant's picture

"Holy font snobbery, Batman!"


George Thomas's picture

You could at least have used Souvenir in the balloons.

It really is a technically well-done face (the original) and regardless of what others think, I still like it.


Nick Shinn's picture

Souvenir is great, but I've always thought Ed could have done a better job on the Sans, it’s a bit too spikey—that much contrast with the serif version isn’t really necessary.

PublishingMojo's picture

@ Majus, I thought about it, but I don't have Souvenir, and it wasn't worth downloading it for this one use (although I have done far stupider things in pursuit of a cheap laugh). At least fake handlettering is a nod to the artists who did the real lettering in the old-school comics.

Mark Simonson's picture

Nick, do you mean Souvenir Gothic? That wasn't Benguiat. It was designed in 1977 by George Brian for TypeSpectra (Phil Martin).

Nick Shinn's picture

Well, that might explain why it was no match for Ed’s face!

John Hudson's picture

Souvenir is great

No, no, it isn't. Really, it isn't.

Nick Shinn's picture

To tell the truth, Souvenir and I don’t see much of each other any more (notwithstanding Mr. Dean’s avatar).
Oh, but the times we had!

Nick Shinn's picture

I beg to differ from Loxley’s analysis.

In 1923 the original Souvenir was actually behind its time, with its art nouveau forms, which would perhaps still have been current when it was designed, before the War.
Similar vibe to Hobo, a slightly earlier Benton face.
Souvenir’s construction was somewhat based on the round-nibbed Speedball pen.
Both those types were in styles that Benton derived from lettering artists, although his Souvenir was quite typographically disciplined.

Art Nouveau was popular in the late sixties and early 1970s, hence some of Souvenir’s appeal then.
With its small serifs, it was suited to tight setting, in vogue during the 1970s.
Arnold Bocklin was another art nouveau style popular then.
Souvenir also had some of the soft finish of Cooper Black, which had no weight or style range, so Souvenir kind of acted as a slicker, more contemporary Cooper Black family.
It held up well as a text type in photosetting, no hairlines or pointy serifs to disappear in less-than-perfect processing.
Good for foil stamping too, thermography and embossing.
Ed’s Souvenir was not at all informal or laid back, but rigorously stylized, very precisely drawn.

Rather than informal, one could say “friendly”, and that might explain how it became cloyingly so, when overly familiar.
The Light made an interesting effect in text.
Ed Benguiat continued to mine Art Nouveau, with his original designs Benguiat, also huge in the 70s, and Barcelona, not at all popular when it came out later.

I don’t see why Souvenir should be vilified now, when rounded styles such as GE Sans have bowed diagonals, so Souvenir again, sure, and perhaps other original rounded serif designs. There have been some, but it’s not an easy task, and Ed aced it.

The style really needs dramatic letter forms, such as art nouveau, to counteract the blandness of the soft finish, small serifs, and low contrast.

piccic's picture

Now, John (and everyone despising it), would you explain me why Souvenir is not good?
It’s not a book-aimed text typeface.

I used to dislike Souvenir (and nmany other late 19th century and 20th century typefaces which had a resurgence in the 1960s), but now that I have come full circle and learned to dig deeply into the turn of the century forms, I can no longer see Souvenir as a 1960s "iconic" alphabet: I just see an amazingly well crafted typeface, despite of taste.

Again, for clarity’s sake, I am not looking at it as a typeface I’d use to set a book, but you get my point, I hope.

And while I am at it, I would need to know if someone could address me to the most complete, or better drawn, digital version of Windsor (I’d need the regular and bold weight). Those available on MyFonts look similar, and it seems there are glyphs missing. And "one size fits it all", of course… :-)

piccic's picture

Ah, and I suppose it was a joke to compare Souvenir to Comic Sans: Comic Sans, no matter if one’s like it or not, is just some casual handwriting turned into typeface format, but it is not a typeface.
Papyrus is another beast, but it is a typeface.

quadibloc's picture

@Nick Shinn:
In 1923 the original Souvenir was actually behind its time, with its art nouveau forms,

Indeed, that is true, which is precisely why it was unsuccessful and unfashionable at the time of its introduction. The fact that the Art Noveau style turned out, eventually, to be worthy of a revival, however, means that Souvenir could indeed have been ahead of its time as well... but while we're still dealing with an anachronism, it is not one of the kind that leads one to suspect a causality violation.

Papyrus is another beast, but it is a typeface.

Souvenir is a typeface. In the sense that Comic Sans might not be one, as it's "digitized handwriting", one could say the same of Papyrus (or some more highly regarded typefaces, such as Mistral, Dom Casual, President...) to a lesser extent. (Ondine, on the other hand, seems too formal and regular to be vulnerable to this criticism/classification, and the same is true for a lot of the older formal script typefaces.)

One thing Comic Sans is not, though, is a satisfactory typeface (in the sense of the typeface vs. font distinction, which is value-free as far as where the vectors came from) for comic book/strip word balloon lettering. That may be "digitized handwriting", but it's still the product of genuine craftsmanship for its purpose - as a visit to the site

should abundantly demonstrate. There's a reason why these guys can charge top dollar for their products, while competitors like

that still produce good products struggle in their shadow.

(Of course, part of the reason is that among the products of ComicCraft are very close imitations of the lettering of Artie Simek and Sam Rosen... and many of their other typefaces were designed in close collaboration with current letterers for Marvel, DC, and other major comics publishers.)

Given that, whatever the failings of Comic Sans may be, I'm a little uncomfortable with saying it's "not a typeface" because of its classification - although I'm happy to acknowledge that it does belong to a class of typeface that doesn't have much to do with the Trajan Column.

Oh, here, I'll just give you this link.

Calligraphy is not typography; but because calligraphy is worthy of respect, Freehand and Goudy Mediaeval are typefaces.

Nick Shinn's picture

The fact that the Art Noveau style turned out, eventually, to be worthy of a revival, however, means that Souvenir could indeed have been ahead of its time as well...

That’s not how being ahead or behind one’s time is generally understood.
Being ahead means the bus hasn’t arrived yet, not that you’ve just missed it.

quadibloc's picture

My point was that he just missed one bus, but he was still also there early for the next one.

While it is by no means certain, it could be thought that his decision to make a typeface in the Art Nouveau style might have been due to a belief in the merits of that style as well as its current fashionability at the time he started the project, and that belief was in part validated as foresighted by the fact of that style's later revival.

PublishingMojo's picture

@ John: Freehand and Goudy Medieval are typefaces for the same reason that Bodoni, Avant Garde, and Trajan are typefaces: They were all purpose-built for use with a mechanical, optical, or digital system that allows users to reproduce letters ad infinitum with no further effort from the person who designed the set of letters.

quadibloc's picture

And isn't Comic Sans a typeface for that exact same reason as well?

My point may have been obscure, so I will make it clear.

It is one thing to say that Comic Sans "is not a typeface" in some metaphorical sense because one believes it to be lacking in quality.

But if you give as your explicit reason for saying that it "is not a typeface" that it belongs to the genre of handwriting faces... but you also still leave lying around hints that you wouldn't have said that if Comic Sans were a better face... then the existence of good handwriting faces exposes your (implicit!!) "logic" as self-contradictory.

Vent on Comic Sans all you like, but don't destroy the meaning of the word "typeface" in the process.

PublishingMojo's picture

@ John, I agree completely, Comic Sans is a typeface. The beauty of typefaces is that there's an almost infinite range of design possibilities. The only thing they have in common is that they're adapted to a process that automates the replication of letters.

I'm not a fan of Comic Sans, but there are places where it's the perfect choice. There are even situations where Souvenir is the perfect choice. Here's one:

Karl Stange's picture

but there are places where it's the perfect choice.

Just because it is well established or even infamous does not mean that it is perfect. I like Spam but there is nothing about the packaging that strikes me as appealing.

oldnick's picture

Actually, there are a lot of similarities—at least tonally—between Souvenir and Oz Cooper’s original design for his eponymous face. Bitstream’s revival of Cooper Light/Medium really bastardized the typeface, IMHO. In any event, I find both Souvenir and Cooper to be excellent text faces when you want to convey a warm and inviting message…

Nick Shinn's picture

Karl, I’m thinking Spam needs to diversify.
Organic, Tofam, and Classic.

Renaissance Man's picture

Karl, I think the Spam packaging is more appealing than the contents.

Nick, I agree. I always thought of Souvenir as the "comfort food" of fonts. How or in what ways did "Bitstream’s revival of Cooper Light/Medium really bastardized the typeface"?

hrant's picture

As I once called it (on Typo-L) Souvenir is the Golden Retriever of the font world. Big, cute, stupid, lovable (by people who don't know what a dog is supposed to be).


oldnick's picture


If you saw the original cuts from Barnhart Brothers and Spindler’s Catalog #25 for Cooper, you’d see what I mean: Cooper’s original letterforms were delightfully quirky, and far more suggestive of hand-lettering that Bitstream’s homogenized outlines.

HVB's picture

NickC - Wordshape claims to have used that catalog to create their 2011 version of Cooper Oldstyle and Cooper Text. I haven't tried to compare this with URW's 1999 "Cooper Old Style".

- Herb

John Hudson's picture

would you explain me why Souvenir is not good?

'Great' was the term Nick used, perhaps not entirely seriously.

I find Souvenir a poorly coordinated mix of mostly quite dull letterforms combined with a handful of eccentric letters. The only thing they have in common is blobby serifs. In this regard -- internal consistency of the design, successful application of an idea across the full range of characters --, Comic Sans is a superior piece of work.

Nick Shinn's picture

Yes, I was entirely serious.

Some of the letterforms are quite novel, but many follow an established Art Nouveau pattern; overall they are well matched and fit nicely.
The theme of bowed diagonals is consistently applied, with the occasional exception, to produce full counters, and that theme is continued in letters such as /a, /e and /g.

The bowed diagonals are echoed in the triangular bowls of /B, /P and /R in a manner that is used in a genre of Art Nouveau types.
The full counters work with the small serifs in the tight fit, to drive white space inside letters, not between, for a controlled and individual text colour. The narrowness of /f and /t also speak to this colour.

The capitals are pretty much the same width—this too is a consistent theme.
The /v and /y do not share the same shape, but that would be simplistic consistency if they were, whereas here the principle that is adhered to is “how far can this letter be bent/opened up?”—and in that respect, the /y references other /y’s that follow the “u” construction.

oldnick's picture


Wordshape’s interpretation is a lot closer to Cooper’s original cuts, although it’s hard to tell, given the vagaries of font rendering in different browsers. What is difficult to capture in a digital font formats are the variations in letterform depending on point size that Cooper employed. Sometimes, “new” is not necessarily “improved”…

Renaissance Man's picture

John Hudson: "Comic Sans is a superior piece of work" [compared to Souvenir].

Wow! Really? That says more about you, John, than it does about Souvenir.

piccic's picture

I think my comment was enough clear, and quadibloc understood in general what I meant.
I do not feel at ease with Comic Sans simply because it is not "designed", neither by construction nor by lettering standards. I mean, with digital type design you can turn any set of letters into typeface format, but this does not mean Comic Sans is a typeface for the lettering of comic books. As quadibloc already explained, lettering for comic books is usually detailed, accurately crafted. Comic Sans was designed to work onscreen, and it does his work, but let’s not call it what is not. Namely, what is an "handwitten" face? Just use handwriting.

Maybe my eyes are not yet trained enough, but I really cannot see all the problems in Souvenir, which I consider a thoroughly accomplished type design. I used to hate most of the typefaces of the turn of the century which got "revived" in the 1960s but now I see them in a more correct light.
Honestly, John, I can’t see all the "poor cordination", and Nick (Shinn) has already replied in a way better way than I could have possibly done myself. I generally go by eye, and Souvenir is harmonic, no matter if the forms are more or less decorative, or straying from "established model". Those are not, strictly speaking, the only parameters which determine an inherent quality of a typeface.

piccic's picture

@oldnick and HVB: Ian Lynam is really a super-fan of Oz Cooper, and I think he did a remarkable work. He gave me the typefaces when he released it, but I did not use them. I am pretty sure, however, he choose a point size and developed the typeface taking account of the proper spacing for that size. Then, he may or may not decide to design other sizes, but I seem to get his digitization is pretty accurate.

William Berkson's picture

Souvenir is Benton's reworking of an earlier German face, Schelter Antiqua. The typowiki article on Souvenir tells the story, with a link to an example of the italic of Schelter Antiqua, which is indeed more Art Nouveau style, as Nick notes.

I am on Claudio's side on this one about it being well designed. I would say, though, that the caps are more successful than the lower case. Signs using its all caps are not cloying, whereas those using the lower case tend to be.

quadibloc's picture

@Renaissance Man:
Wow! Really? That says more about you, John, than it does about Souvenir.

Actually, though, you forgot his very important qualification: "In this regard".

The capitals and lower-case of Souvenir, he claims, were not well-coordinated. Comic Sans does not have that particular fault. It may be a piece of garbage aesthetically, but it's unified, harmonious, and consistent garbage.

It doesn't make John Hudson a bad person to say that Comic Sans is, therefore, superior to Souvenir in respect of this particular aspect of polish, even if in general Comic Sans is a piece of useless garbage and Souvenir is a slightly flawed but still highly useful and beautiful typeface.

He was just expressing a truth that was, unfortunately, liable to being misconstrued.

Té Rowan's picture

@quadibloc – It was bound to happen that somebody would rip something out of context. It's one of these Universal Rules, tha noo...

Personally, I rather like Souvenir. It leaves me thinking of ETI (Electronics Today International) and wanting to build a co-processor card for my Speccy.

piccic's picture

Well, no typeface is "perfect" but it is not a mere matter "taste" to judge if an alphabet is well drawn and accomplished. I understand better John’s comments but I still think it is nonsense to compare a properly designed typeface for print to Comic Sans. Which happens to be used in print, but remains a collection of casual handwritten letterforms, and I honestly miss its appeal as a typeface. It remains a generic informal set of handwritten letters, to my eyes.

Thanks to quadibloc which seems to have a thorough eye in considering all aspects… :-)

Now, back to my topic: William, many thanks, that’s great. But I still can’t find good printed examples of the original Souvenir. And about the two german typefaces which influenced it: wow, the italic of Schelter-Antiqua is great. Do you know where more examples can be found, and of Tauchnitz-Antiqua as well?

piccic's picture

P.S. Of course I checked the links provided by Herb, but the image quality is not so good. Any other source?

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