Type used by US GPO

jcrippen's picture

There was a modern type used by the US Government Printing Office for many different publications, particularly those published by the Smithsonian. A large number of the anthropology and linguistics books I read from the 1910s through to the 1970s were published in this typeface. I have no idea what it is, but I’ve been curious for a long time.

Attached is a scan from a book printed in 1972 by the US GPO for the Smithsonian. I apologize for the poor quality of the scan, but it’s the only thing that I happen to have and I don’t have a working scanner at the moment.

Can anyone identify this typeface? I can try to get a better scan in a couple of days if necessary.

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Jan's picture

Looks a lot like Century Expanded, but Century doesn’t have small caps in any digitalized form.

bowfinpw's picture

DeVinne was quite similar, and did have a Small Caps version as shown in McGrew's book on metal typefaces. (Image from my Serif Guide doesn't show SC face, but McGrew's book shows it.)

- Mike Yanega

dezcom's picture

Century was a staple of GPO in years past.


bowfinpw's picture

Looking at an old (1930's) Linotype metal type catalog, I find that Century Expanded had a small caps face, not surprisingly.

Jan is probably right about the typeface, which had SC versions in metal, if not digital form.

- Mike Yanega

jcrippen's picture

I had wondered if it was Century, but was suspicious because the digital versions looked much more flimsy. I guess that’s the difference between digital type and real metal type pressed into paper.

Did Century Expanded have Greek too? The stuff I read is full of IPA-ish and Greek characters in both upright and italic/oblique forms. If not then the GPO must have had a special set cut for them, at least in the 12 point used for body text. Some of the works I’ve read include lots of different diacritics too, so I’d guess that these were custom additions to the font.

The reason I’m curious is that I have a dream of someday reprinting/republishing some of the old texts I work with, helped by the fact that many are either out of copyright or never were copyrighted being government works. I’ve seen photostatic reprints, but these make for absolutely horrible reading with the degrading, turds and hair, and lacunae. The books and articles are getting very hard to find, and were never printed in large numbers to begin with.

jcrippen's picture

Regarding De Vinne, myfonts.com says “This revival of the Bruce Foundry’s No. 11 is typical of the nineteenth century types derived from the work of Didot and Bodoni; the face remains popular with lawyers and government printers. In fact, Theodore Low De Vinne opposed this kind of design as hard to print and read; he had Century designed to replace it.”

I can’t tell whether the books I’ve got are set in De Vinne or Century, they’re so similar. I’ll look to see if they’ve got the very curly ? or the less curly one. That should be enough to distinguish the two, yes?

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