What is De Vinne?

phrostbyte64's picture

It's probably a stupid question. I've seen several fonts that were called De Vinne or Devinne. They all have serifs but that is where any similarity ends. So, back to the question, what is De Vinne relative to fonts - history, definition, etc.? If someone would care to be enlightening, that would be awesome.


PublishingMojo's picture

Theodore Low De Vinne (1828-1914) designed several different typefaces that bear his name.

hrant's picture

Not a bad question at all!

De Vinne also wrote some foundational books. Great stuff in fact. He has a number of admirers, including Matthew Carter.


Nick Shinn's picture

He wasn’t a type designer.

Small-space ad, Saturday Evening Post, 1906.
Fonts: De Vinne by G. Schroeder, 1893; Numbered Oldstyle. Anon.
Typical of the Progressive Era, during which the rate of infant mortality was halved, this ad promotes a gender neutral exercise machine for children.

Here is part of a text I’ve been working on, which describes the first De Vinne typeface (shown above):

Elzevir, originally designed in the late 18th century, was revived in France in the 1880s and enjoyed a return to popularity in the USA, inspiring Gustav Schroeder's “De Vinne” of 1893 (Elzevir Bold, really), which became the most popular typeface of the 1890s. It was named after Theodore De Vinne, the leading figure in American typography. He was a printer in the wide sense of the term as it was then employed, a publisher of books and magazines, instigator of coated paper, co-founder of the Grolier Club for bibliophiles, and an authority on typography who wrote extensively on the subject. Of the eponymous face, De Vinne said, “This face is the outcome of correspondence (1888-90) between the senior of the De Vinne Press [meaning himself] and Mr. J. A. St. John of the Central Type Foundry of St. Louis, concerning the need of plainer types of display, to replace the profusely ornamented types in fashion, of which the printers of that time had a surfeit. The DeVinne Press suggested a return to the simplicity of the true old-style character, but with the added features of thicker lines and adjusted proportion in shapes of letters. Mr. St. John approved, but insisted on grotesques to some capital letters in the belief that they would meet a general desire for more quaintness. Mr. Werner of the Central Type Foundry was instructed to draw and cut the proposed face in all sizes from 6- to 72-point, which task he executed with great ability. The name given to this face by Mr. St. John is purely complimentary, for no member of the De Vinne Press has any claim on the style as inventor or designer. Its merits are largely due to Mr. Werner; its few faults of uncouth capitals show a desire to please eccentric tastes and to conform to old usage. The new face found welcome here and abroad; no advertising face of recent production had a greater sale.”
The De Vinne typeface was a successful compromise between two established forces competing for the soul of the popular magazine.
The foundry man claimed it for commercial interest, as a business venture captivating the consumer with visual spectacle, in the manner of brash job-printed flyers and bills larded with exotically dimensionalized fonts, or lithographed posters with even more ornately flourished lettering. St. John recognized the need for something new and eye-catching, and Schroeder's (not Werner, as De Vinne had mistakenly believed) adaptation provided that, with the quiet personality which the features of Elzevier possessed as a light text type becoming quite loud in the guise of a bold display face, the upper case features going so far as to impress DeVinne as "grotesques". It was a marriage of Parisian cachet with Yankee brashness. Such commercial interest found its foothold in the advertising of mass magazines, which during the 1890s became an experimental laboratory for marketing communication.
De Vinne claimed the magazine for typography and idealism, the editorial well his stronghold, calling for fonts of dignity and simplicity used in the understated manner of quality book and traditional magazine printing; but while he railed against the usual late Victorian suspect of profuse ornament, he too needed something new, for there were plenty of beautiful, simple, functional Victorian faces he could have turned to, but they had been around awhile, and their virtues had palled.
Although Mr De Vinne was not entirely satisfied, he couldn't argue with the instant and immediate success of his eponymous face. A year later (1894) he began working more closely with a typefounder, Linn Boyd Benton, on a commission for the Century magazine, of which he was publisher. The strict demeanour of the resulting Century Roman was more to his taste, and the heft of its hairlines more to his ease (he was 66 at the time); the face would not become popular, although its descendants would. The Century family branched out with Century Expanded (1900), Century Oldstyle (1906), and Century Schoolbook (1918).
In Devinne and Century, there is a gradual movement away from the refined detail of the Scotch Modern, which had been the favored style of everyday text type in the US for 60 years, and the more recent but similar in effect Old Style, towards a heavier impression, matching the tenor of the times which found its most forceful expression in William Morris. Like De Vinne, Morris was in his sixties in the nineties, so their beef with fine type may well have been age-related.

eliason's picture

Thanks Nick. I'm really intrigued by his use of "grotesque" in that quotation.

hrant's picture

Good stuff, Nick.


PublishingMojo's picture

@ Nick: Very enlightening! I can't recall when I've so enjoyed discovering I was in error.

phrostbyte64's picture

@Nick: Wow. Awesome stuff.

Nick Shinn's picture

A comparison of a Scotch Modern c.1870 (left) with text from Theodore De Vinne’s Correct Composition (my edition is from the 1920s). This type is similar to Bitstream’s De Vinne typeface, all very generic.

Barnhart Brothers & Spindler catalogue, 1915.

mvor's picture

Hi there — this is a sort of cross-post, but I am wondering if any of the clues on this post might help me find the serif used for Wyndham Lewis' BLAST...? — http://typophile.com/node/104424

I think I am after one of the 'sort-of -De Vinne' typefaces, but a printed source / reference would be ideal to work from as the digital cuts seem wide of the mark in terms of the condensed lowercase and expresseive uppercase on the sample from p61 of BLAST.

.00's picture

399 Lafayette St New York, NY 10003 was the site of De Vinne's printing company. Now home to Astor Wine and Liquor. Use Google Maps street view to see the well preserved building.

William Berkson's picture

Nice commentary, Nick. Looking forward to your book!

DeVinne was a great and unique character in the history of printing and type, being both the leading American printer and scholar of printing and type history in his day. His Historic Printing Types is a great book and thankfully it's on line—the link goes to it. He has an superb eye, and his critiques are extremely insightful and not dated at all, which is pretty astonishing.

I consulted it in doing my article about the 19th century revival of Old Style types, and Caslon in particular, for July 2011 edition of Printing History. There is also a first rate series of historical articles by Ovink, called '19th Century Reactions against the Didone Type Model' which includes the history of the French old styles. I consulted these also, thanks to the tip by William Peterson, then editor of Printing History. Nick, you might want to consult those, if you don't know them already.

I think the 'grotesque' display 'DeVinne' is not worthy of his name, though he may not have had a problem with it. His legacy in type design is really the Century series, which bears the stamp of his ideas, even though the Bentons drew it. There is also a Linotype DeVinne in metal, which is a Scotch style, without the thickened thin strokes of Century. It was very widely used, especially in scientific texts, I believe, though I may have it wrong; Bitstream did a revival of it, as Nick notes. DeVinne himself constantly used a lot of Scotch style types as a printer, as Nick's illustration shows, even though his Century was intended to improve on the style.

Deus Lux's picture

Nick Shinn is so Punk Rock.

peterwgnd's picture

Has this De Vinne ever been digitized? I've only managed to come across a De Vinne Roman BT, which matches the sample Nick posted above and a De Vinne Swash / Ornamental, which seems to share only a superficial resemblance with the Schroeder face.

phrostbyte64's picture

There are very few that I have found which actually make some reference to their origins in De Vinne or give proper credit. I haven't found any versions that I was satisfied with.

William Berkson's picture

Not the display type De Vinne, but a lovely version of the original French old style caps that inspired it was done by Tobias Frere-Jones, called Grand Central. It also, of course, resembles the signs originally in Grand Central Station—which I believe now uses Frere-Jones's version.

peterwgnd's picture

Thanks to both of you. It really does evoke the period. Also, thanks for pointing me in the direction of Grand Central.

Stephen Coles's picture

There is also a Linotype DeVinne in metal, which is a Scotch style, without the thickened thin strokes of Century. It was very widely used, especially in scientific texts, I believe, though I may have it wrong; Bitstream did a revival of it, as Nick notes.

Can you show me a specimen or some other example of this Linotype face, William? The description of Bitstream’s De Vinne on MyFonts states that it was based on Bruce’s No. 11, a typeface that appears in Text Types of the De Vinne Press. This is the first I’ve heard that there was a Linotype face of the same name that came between Bruce and Bitstream.

Update: McGrew describes the modern roman DeVinne (which he misspells as one word) as produced by Linotype in 1902 and here it is in their 1905 catalog. Settled.

Stephen Coles's picture

inspiring Gustav Schroeder's “De Vinne” of 1893

You might be a year off, Nick. De Vinne appears in this Central catalog from 1892.

Stephen Coles's picture

Aggregating my own findings with those in this useful thread, here is a summary of the three disparate families now going by the name De Vinne, DeVinne, or Devinne:

De Vinne, Gustav F. Schroeder, Central Type Foundry, c.1892
First released by Central Type Foundry around 1892. In the following years, Central (and then ATF) added many styles to the family. It disappears from ATF catalogs after 1923.

No digital version exists, other than a rough wood facsimile, but it’s still possible to get the metal type: M & H casts the Monotype version, which was called “No. 11” or “Devinne”.

DeVinne Ornamental, Stephenson Blake, (Deberny & Peignot Les Modernes, c.1900)
DeVinne Ornamental was released by Stephenson Blake around 1900, based on a Deberny & Peignot typeface called Les Modernes. [Reichardt]

Various sources list Gustav F. Schroeder as the designer, but it is unclear that he had anything to do with this typeface, and these credits may be misapplied from his design for Central.

There are at least three digital versions: Linotype’s, and two from URW which are distinct and may be based on different metal sizes or different sources altogether. Naming also varies, adding to the confusion. This design is known at various outlets as “Devinne”, “De Vinne”, or “DeVinne”. “Ornament”, “Ornamented”, and “Ornamental” are also used.

De Vinne, Linotype/Bitstream, (Bruce No. 11, 1890)
MyFonts describes this De Vinne as a revival of Bruce’s No. 11. It was released by Linotype in 1902. It appears Linotype soon replaced the face with their “Modern” series, because De Vinne does not appear in catalogs after 1920. Bitstream’s revival is the only digital version called “De Vinne”.

Despite its name, this typeface doesn’t seem to have anything specific to do with Theodore Low De Vinne except that No. 11 appears in Text Types of the De Vinne Press, a collection of specimens from various sources.


Links go to Fonts In Use where I’ll post the most updated info, including specimens and (of course) examples of the type in use. Please let me know if I have any of this wrong. I’ll post the list soon on Typeology.

quadibloc's picture

@William Berkson:
There is also a Linotype DeVinne in metal, which is a Scotch style, without the thickened thin strokes of Century. It was very widely used, especially in scientific texts, I believe, though I may have it wrong; Bitstream did a revival of it, as Nick notes.

In general, because of the demand for mathematical formulas in scientific texts, Monotype, rather than Linotype, was used for them. It is true that Scotch Roman faces were very widely used in scientific texts.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

M & H casts the Monotype version, which was called “No. 11” or “Devinne”.

One of the very first Monotype Cyrillics (Series 311) shown in the specimen book of 1916 was actually an ‘extension’ of Series 11. It is interesting that its font complement was Ruthenian (Ukrainian), not Russian.

[Source: The Monotype Specimen Book of Type-Faces. A complete catalog of matrices made for use with The Monotype Composing Machine Type & Rule Caster. Philadelphia: Lanston Monotype Machine Co., 1916.]

grubstreet's picture

An interesting interlude: De Vinne 36pt was used directly as the pin mark for the famous Japanese type foundry, Tsukiji, which was founded by Tomiji Hirano. (Hirano is the surname and Tomiji is the first name) The foundry's pin mark is a De Vinne H in a circle.

quadibloc's picture

I see that DeVinne Ornamental, although it resembles a typeface I've spoken of before that came from ATF, Columbus, is definitely not the same typeface.

In looking at old ATF catalogs, I ran across Samoa, which slightly resembled a typeface I ran across looking for Artistik look-alikes - but upon checking, I see that they're not really that similar. Unlike Artistik, neither of them differentiates mirror letters well.

Incidentally, I see that Columbus was digitally revived by Sam Wang before a Kickstarter project to revive it - he also revived a few other noted old typefaces, such as Greeting Monotone (which I knew as Margery).

hashiama's picture

A De Vinne revival with a new italic was just released here http://www.fontseek.info/gza

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