Basque lettering/type

pat a.'s picture

Hello Typophiles.

I'm currently finishing up the International Studies part of a Visual Communication/International Studies double degree, and have been living & studying in Bordeaux, France for the past 9 months or so.

The deadline for my final research project -- a 5000-word research project on an aspect of France or French society, of your choosing -- is a few months away now, and what I've decided to do is explore/investigate the links between traditional Basque lettering styles (mentioned here on Typophile, and here's a cursory flickr search) and concepts of Basque nationalism.

While there's a wealth of stuff on Basque identity and nationalism in its various guises, I've struggled to find information on the Basque lettering/type in journal databases and magazine archives and this post on Social Design Notes was almost all Google would give me). So if anyone could point me in the direction of books, journal articles, or even people that might be able to shed some light on this, that would be great. I'm open to resources in French and English (and I have some very basic Spanish).

And an aside, while I've got you here:

I'm hoping to maybe do a few comparisons -- any tips on other contemporary or historical connections between type and national identity? I ordered a copy of Shaw & Bain's "Blackletter: Type and National Identity" the other day -- a contemporary Basque country/WWII Germany comparison seems like it could be quite interesting both visually and ideologically, but off the top of my head that's all I've got so far, and it's been written about so many times before in theses etc.

Anyway. This is getting a little longwinded. Love to hear your thoughts/ideas!
And I've attached one of the flickr photos I linked to above, just in case you're unfamiliar with the style (although there can be quite a bit of variation).

Jean-Baptiste Levee's picture

Just a quick linkdrop, I don't know if you already know it or find it useful…

Si_Daniels's picture

>Basque country/WWII Germany comparison seems like it could be quite interesting both visually and ideologically

Could also be offensive if not handled properly. Contrasting with the way Uncial type is used to denote Irishness might be more apropriate? The bonus would be the research involving various Irish pubs in your area.

hrant's picture

I think a pretty good comparison here would be the situation with Ireland and the Gaelic script (more than the uncial style of the Latin script). BTW, I remember one or two other cases of discussion concerning Basque lettering on Typophile, but can't find them.


hrant's picture

And here's a macro shot of a Spanish coin I've kept:

It seems like a gesture of goodwill via lettering.


pat a.'s picture

Thanks for your replies everyone.

Jean-Baptiste: that link looks interesting. I might try and get in touch with the guy who runs that site.

Hrant & Sii, I think you're both right here: the Germany/blackletter thing was just the first thing that came to mind when I started thinking about type & nationalism. I might still mention it in passing though.

The Uncial/Gaelic script options do seem like better ideas.

Wondering though: has a lot been written on Gaelic script? This could turn very niche very quickly -- especially since I'm writing this for an arts/sociology-type degree, not my design one. Also wondering if the political associations are as strong here? This is all pretty uncharted territory for me.

All this said, I'm not sure how big the "comparative" part of my piece is going to be, given that the whole thing is relatively short.

hrant's picture

There has been a fair amount written about the Gaelic angle.
And it's probably more political! Probably because it's a seen
as a script, not just a style.


crossgrove's picture

There's a little bit of national identity stuff in the 20th-century work of Czech type designers as well. Start with Veronika Burian's thesis; maybe it will point to other articles.

Luc Devroye also has some links to Estonian and Ukrainian lettering/type that might fit your thesis.

timd's picture

Breton, Cornish and Welsh might be worth looking at along with Gaelic where a separate writing system doesn't seem to have survived (although special characters do exist).

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