dux's picture

How do :o)

I'm doing a little research into Morris Benton Fuller's Souvenir.

On my travels I've heard lots of suggestion that it was very influenced by two german faces Schelter-Antiqua and Schelter-Kursiv from Germany’s Schelter & Giesecke foundry. I've yet to track down any evidence to suggest this -- can anyone shed any light on the matter?

It's not a typeface that everyone necessarily enjoys, but something about its longevity in the face of fashion intrigues me. It's nothing if not friendly, even if it is in a stupid grinning kind of way.

If you know of anything interesting about souvenir, I'd really appreciate hearing about it.


dux's picture

anything anyone? I'm starting to develop a complex here at typophile

Clyde Baumwell's picture

My recollection is that when ITC developed Souvenir in the 70s they were mainly influenced by Cooper (which only existed in one weight at the time) and possibly an old hand type metal face called Greco. In the late 70s Souvenir was extremely popular and was seen everywhere both display and text!

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't know anything more than you do of its origins.
So for want of anything better, this is by way of an appreciation.

The earliest usage I've come across, other than in a specimen, was for the title of an article in a mid '60s Playboy magazine. Arthur Paul liked to use a lot of exotic types, as did many ADs at the time. That was before Ed Benguiat did the ITC family.

When I started work in Toronto in the mid '70s, Souvenir and Korinna were the hot faces, which was cool because I worked in a small promotion company, and we actually had them, on our Quadritek typesetting system. They were much despised even then (ubiquity does that), but quite useful. The light and bold weights of Souvenir brought a very fresh look to typography. The italics, same width as the roman, gave a modern look to layouts.

Souvenir has always been my favorite Benguiat face. I love the originality of the letterforms, yet they all work together. The style is derived from art nouveau, but always struck me as being futuristic. Ed's workmanship/design is astonishing, virtuoso, and beautiful, especially on the light weight.

The Swash variants are somewhat tacky. But hey, they did it to Caslon.
Some of those po-faced Dutch faces could do with a good swashing.

raph's picture

I too associate Souvenir with the '70s heyday of ITC, but in fact ITC Souvenir was a faithful photization of the original Benton font, large x-height and all. ITC did a bunch of other faces as "revivals" of Benton originals, including Cheltenham, Clearface, Franklin, Cushing, etc., but in most cases jacked up the x-height, cleaned up the quirks, and in general brought it squarely into the '70s.

I've considered doing a serious digitization of the original Benton Souvenir, but have concluded that there's not that much that such a version would have to offer over the ITC version. Benguiat got his drawings right, and this particular font has such a low stroke contrast that it scales well even without ATF's magical optical scaling technology.

I assume you've come across this link:

I was able to track down a sample of Schelter-Kursiv, which certainly suggests a strong influence on Benton (the lowercase 'g' in particular is quite distinctive), but I think there's still a strong case to be made that Benton's interpretation, bringing his uniquely clean American look to the basic idea, was the first with all the ingredients for its widespread popularity.

In the '80s, it was nearly as fashionable for type snobs to bash Souvenir as it is to bash Comic Sans today, but I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Souvenir because it was the main font in Ranger Rick magazine, a favorite when I was a wee lad.

William Berkson's picture

Here is the info from Myfonts about Souvenir:

"Souvenir was originally drawn by Morris Fuller Benton in 1914 as a single weight for the American Type Founders company. It was revived in 1967 by Photo-Lettering and optimized for phototypesetting equipment. ITC was formed in 1971 and, with the help of Photo-Lettering, introduced ITC Souvenir as one of its first typeface families. ITC Souvenir was designed by Ed Benguiat and comes in four weights, each with a matching italic."

Mac McGrew's 'American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century' adds some interesting information. Its working title was 'Round Roman' and the original one-weight metal version achieved little popularity. The photo type version by Benguiat was so popular that 'Matrotype' in England cut metal faces based on it, one of the few cases of a photo type being cut in metal.

I agree with Nick that Souvenir is a very good typeface. It is 'warm and fuzzy' and designers, who have to look at the stuff all day tend to get sick of this mood pretty fast. However, the public, who look at a sign or ad now and then with such type, appreciates its warmth.

Among 'warm and fuzzy' types, Souvenir is outstanding, as Nick says, in how well it works together. Note that the light version, which Nick feels is best, is Morris Fuller Benton's. The heavier weights, as McGrew explains, were drawn by Ed Benguiat. I don't know if Benguiat redrew the light version, or this is a pretty faithful revival of that weight.

raph's picture

I went ahead and wikified an entry for Souvenir. William, I hope you don't mind too much my cut-n-pastes from your post. dux, as you learn more info (or find more samples of Schelter), please fill out the wiki entry.

hrant's picture

Souvenir is the Golden Retriever of the type world.
That's not a compliment.


William Berkson's picture

On behalf of all Golden Retrievers, I am officially insulted, Hrant ;)

Raph, thanks for your info and links, which I didn't see until after I posted mine. Feel free to Wiki away!

It is quite interesting to see what Morris Fuller Benton took as inspiration, and what he made of it. Some historian could do a great monograph on that.

Norbert Florendo's picture

Also, Golden Retrievers always come back!

The interesting aspects of the faces like Souvenir that became "popular" in the late 60s through early 70s was that the heavy bulbuous weighted faces were originally popular in the early 1920s.

I'm not sure when Souvenir Bold came on the scene (M.F. Benton or Photo-Lettering?) but Oswald Cooper's Cooper Black, produced 1921, became so popular that Lanston Monotype released Goudy Heavyface in 1925 to rival it.

All of these were revived and widely used during the 1970s.

Yes, I'm old, but I'm not bulbuous!

oldnick's picture

Yes, I’m old, but I’m not bulbuous!

Would that I could make the same claim...

William Berkson's picture

A "reliable source" e-mailed me interesting interesting information about Schelter-Antiqua and Souvenir. I will post it to the Typowiki later today--if I can get in.

peter_bain's picture

I think some of the wiki info, and the sources for that, got a bit garbled. Schelter Antiqua and Tauschnitz Antiqua (basically just some alts) were the start for Benton's Souvenir.

Here's a comparison, Souvenir is the 2nd and 4th line:

Um, I'm not 100% sure about the 1967 date for Ed B. starting his ITC version. "Souvenir" doesn't appear in the Photo-Lettering Alphabet Yearbook until the 1969 version (page 1317), but that certainly doesn't mean he wasn't working on one earlier. You've all probably read this, with a separate sighting:

Lastly, I heard years ago that ATF Souvenir was first revived for Gold Medal Flour advertising, but haven't had time to track down an exact year or even verify if that's true. Nick Shinn's Art Paul attribution may be the best target.

William Berkson's picture

I posted my info to the typowiki. Then I tried to check it and got 'access denied'.

It would be great to have Peter's visual and the bit from Raph that is relevant.

Paul--you are the official typowiki maven, right?--two questions.

1. The listing for 'Souvenir' shows up in the 'new postings' box on the typowiki intro page, but if you go to 'typefaces' in the indices list, Souvenir doesn't show up. Can you fix this?

2. If the 'access denied' bug can't be fixed shortly, can you give us an idea of the circumstances that trigger it, so we can avoid it?


dana dahlquist's picture

After a brief absence spent chasing my tail, I'm back to express shock, indignation and outrage at the insinuation " the Golden Retriever of the type world. That’s not a compliment."

Retrievers have many oustanding qualities: 1)never need kerning 2) they track brilliantly and 3)they have a very nice x-height (at least as nice as that of Souvenir).

And when was the last time Souvenir (or even Cooper Black) went out for a walk with you?

listen to the barking dogs

paul d hunt's picture

hey william, the "Access Denied" message that comes up on some wiki entries seems to have something to do with capitalization of certain names. a bit of fiddling with the url will usually let you get in to the particular entry you're searching for. for example, this SHOULD work:

Miss Tiffany's picture

Peter (Bain) if you find fault with a wiki entry please do edit it. :^)

William Berkson's picture

Paul, your link still didn't work :(

I had clicked on the link in the 'new entries' box to get in, but then it blocked me when I tried to go back--same link.

Anyway, since the wiki seems stuck, here is the additional info for those who are interested:

Schelter & Giesecke, a major German type foundry, had launched Schelter-Antiqua as their own original in-house design with very elaborate and beautiful specimens, an essay on its features, and a warning that they had protected it under German law (gesetzlich geschützt). It was intended as a very serious contender in the legibility stakes and the Schelter & Giesecke specimen contains a fascinating 4-page article on it. There is much emphasis on the care put into avoiding over-fine hairlines and achieving good spacing. Having invested so much work in a complete series (condenseds and semi-bolds and so on) no wonder S&G got legal protection for the face, in Germany at least. In fact there were several imitations, and one of them (not very close, but not that distant either) from an Austrian foundry was called 'Souverän'--probably not coincidentally similar in name to Souvenir.

Benton had produced at the same time his entry in the legibility stakes, namely Clearface. Perhaps for this reason, he took some ideas from Schelter-Antiqua, but went a different direction, giving it a distinctive 'cuddly' look quite different from the German type. Its origins as a 'legibility' face, as well as Benton's and then Benguiat's skills, may account why among 'soft' designs it stands out as extremely readable.

hrant's picture

> among ‘soft’ designs it stands out as extremely readable.

Exactly how are you arriving at this conclusion? And is the implication that "soft"* fonts are generally less readable? I would think you [choose to] believe the opposite. But I'd like to hear some elaboration, if possible.

* What's the definition of that again?


jim_rimmer's picture


I can't add anything to your quest for info on Souvenir, other than to say that I once read after the re-lease of the face in the seventies, that it had been a financial disappointment to ATF? when they released it.

I know suvenir has been bashed royally by the typo-elite, but I like it when it came out as photoype, and asked a local typesetting house to bring in the disc so that I could have them set the type for a Christmas book that I was hired to design. The book was Johann's Gift to Christmas, written by a Vancouver newspaper journalist, Jack Richards.

I think the type worked for this book, and I'd do it again . . . but then, I like Cheltenham and Copper Plate Gothic.


William Berkson's picture

Good question, Hrant. By 'soft' I am thinking of bending the verticals. Often such faces are quite informal display faces, and have a lot of irregularity and swashiness, and are not so readable.

But come to think of it Comic Sans is quite readable. Also I do think all the verticals in the roman lower case often gets you into trouble in a text face, creating too much dazzle and lack of differentiation, particularly in words like minimum and millenium. So, yeah, I would agree that softness in itself does not hurt readability. Just that most of them are not in fact designed with readibility in mind, and aren't particularly good in that respect.

William Berkson's picture

ps the comment about softness was mine, not the 'reliable source'. I am not so reliable, as you all know!

hrant's picture

> And when was the last time Souvenir (or even
> Cooper Black) went out for a walk with you?

Not a walk, by I once coralled three lost Goldens into my backyard (using my beagle's single leash) until their -equally airheaded- owned showed up - but not before each of his dogs had managed to fall into the pond (one of them twice). Huh, I wonder, does that count as the canine equivalent of "found type"?

Jim, I love Cheltenham, even though much of the "establishment" hates it (probably mainly because an "outsider" did it). I mean the real thing though, not the ITC crap. (BTW, the quest is actually Luke's, not mine.)


hrant's picture

William, Evert Bloemsma has said that "a straight line is a dead line". Although I personally do see merits in straight lines, I'm not at all sure that "curvy lines" (not the way I'd use "soft", btw) don't actually help readability.


William Berkson's picture

Whoops, never mind.

I ought to look before I push that button. Souvenir has straight verticals. The soft look comes from rounded terminals and bowed diagonals. (The bent U is an exception).

Hobo is Benton's face with bent verticals--not so good.

I should have said that among those that affect this mood, most are display faces with lesser readibility...

peter_bain's picture

Tiffany, I'll try my bit on the wiki entry.

hrant's picture

But Souvenir does have some curvy parts -notably diagonals, like in the "A"- which are traditionally straight. My Paphos (please, please don't ask me when it'll be released) does that too. Although I certainly hope nobody will think it's cuddly...


peter_bain's picture

William (et al), I edited what was there, trying to stick to the facts where I know them.

FWIW, I would differentiate between low stroke contrast, rounded serifs, and a curved "skeleton". "Soft" is not particularly descriptive.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Peter, thanks for participating. Never be afraid to add articulation to the wiki. I'm sure everyone appreciates it.

William Berkson's picture

Peter, thanks for contributing.

Paul, your link and the one in the 'new' box still don't let me in to the wiki entry. Raph's link, above, which has the cap S in Souvenir in the address, I discovered, does let me in.

Peter, you are right of course that 'soft' is too vague. Being specific about the rounded terminals, stroke contrast, which traditionally straight features are bent, etc is much more accurate.

There is, though, a certain 'warm and fuzzy' aesthetic that designs try for in various ways, and Souvenir achieves it while also getting good readibility. For example, Benguiat's self-named face achieves the warmth, but is less readable than Souvenir.

dana dahlquist's picture

"each of his dogs had managed to fall into the pond (one of them twice)."

Retrievers "falling" into a pond is like birds "falling" into the sky... and most retrievers have, as standard equipment, an automatic "shake" reflex/function that commences immediately after said retriever exits the water, and spreads aqueous joy on all in their immediate proximity.

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside a dog it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

listen to the barking dogs

hrant's picture

Check out the second image here:

Hey, I know: the official "friendly fire" font!


peter_bain's picture

In case anyone was looking for this:
has been changed to:

ITC Souvenir is within the gray bands.

As far as backstory, I've included a discussion and showing of Eastern Souvenir in the Nov. 2005 Communication Arts typography column.

piccic's picture

I need to read this. :-)

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