Interesting Typography Legends?

ferfolio_2's picture

Let me start with a well known one, at the early stages of typography:

This is the story about Laurens Janszoon Koster sailor and innkeeper from the city of Harleem (Netherlands). A sunny day around 1430 he was going for a stroll with his grandchildren in the Haarlemmerhout woods (near the city), where he started to play a game by cutting letters from pieces of old beech trees, just for the amusement of his siblings. After a while he started making the game more interesting by using ink and printing the letters, and that was when he realized about the real possibilities of this process...

Koster begun by improving the ink, then he mounted a small printing workshop. While doing his first job (Speculum Humanae Salvationis) he changed the wood type by a stronger metal type (made of lead & tin), and his business started to grow and grow, so he hired more people.

On Christmas eve, 1941 while Koster was at church with his family, one of his employees called Johannes went to the printing workshop and stole all of his metal type, then fled to Mainz. A year after that, Johannes Gutenberg printed his first jobs in Mainz.

This story was written by Hadrianus Junius in 1568, he also wrote that another employee of Koster 's printing workshop told him about Johannes being the thief of the metal type... somthing like the bad Santa Claus that made Koster miserable. Some say that there are still metal wine cups forged with Koster's metal type...

Here is the first portrait of Koster holding a type piece, with a very interesting look...

Koster

There is a statue of him in the city of Harleem:

Koster

Source (mainly): "Type: the secret history of letters" by Simon Loxley

ferfolio_2's picture

Sorry about my English! I hope the next legend will be better written :)

hrant's picture

If by "legend" you mean something that might be true or not, what about the Burgess/Times thing?

hhp

ferfolio_2's picture

Tell us about it Hrant!

hrant's picture

Start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Times_New_Roman
It gets pretty tangled...

hhp

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Hi Fernando, as so many stories from the past this is a myth — due to the nationalistic movements of the 19th century, with the intention of claiming historical breakthroughs for their purposes.

There IS a statue of Coster (note the spelling with a /c/) in Haarlem, but there is no serious historian nowadays who will support the notion of Coster having invented printing instead of Gutenberg.

Now, on a different tack, the invention of telephony is e completely different story… A G Bell stole that, of course… : )

ferfolio_2's picture

Bert: Yes, in Spanish we call him "Lorenzo Coster", but I saw that in other English speaking websites they wrote "Coster" with a /k/. Even though it might not be true it's still a nice legend ;)

printguru's picture

Matthew Carter, creator of Verdana.

Mark Simonson's picture

I don’t think anyone questions the existence of Matthew Carter. Maybe you’re thinking of living legends.

ferfolio_2's picture

Yes :) I was referring to Legend, as in myths, stories that could be true or not, related to type. Like the tombstone of John Baskerville... or Griffo's involvement in a murder with a metal type... :)

Si_Daniels's picture

+ 1 for Matthew and Verdana - both have achieved mythic status, which may be true or not!

However it's no myth that Griffo was hung for murdering his son-in-law with a metal bar. That's fact not mythology!

ferfolio_2's picture

Mmm... not so much, Griffo was charged with murder, but the weapon, most say it was something like an iron bar, the metal type is the interesting part of the myth...

Nick Shinn's picture

Hitler used fraktur for its racial qualities.

dberlow's picture

Plantin was hung too, they say.

Si_Daniels's picture

A good one... If it wasn't for Steve Jobs taking a calligraphy class there would be no digital fonts on computers.

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