Giovanni Mardersteig's Zeno: two shapes for c, m and r, long and short

ebensorkin's picture

According to Antonio Cavedoni, Giovanni Mardersteig's Zeno has two shapes for c, m and r, long and short. Right now I plan to find images of this in "THE OFFICINA BODONI, AN ACCOUNT OF THE WORK OF A HAND PRESS, 1923-1977" which is in at least 2 libraries I will be visiting. But does anybody already have images of these? I only ask because I am excited to see them in context. A bit childish of me...

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Jan Middendorp's picture

In one of the nodes you mention, 12226, Hrant posted two scans that have alternate letters for c, m, r and more.
Isn't that what you're looking for?
I have a small Dutch/Belgian Officina Bodoni catalogue that has a 16pt Zeno specimen text. Both versions of the r are used, not sure about the c and m. In the latter, the difference is pretty subtle.


John Hudson's picture

See page 103 of Lawson's _Anatomy of a typeface_; but I don't notice any variant letters. If I recall correctly, the Zeno type was very seldom used, so you may find it difficult to locate examples.

ebensorkin's picture

I was doing a Worldcat search for "The four Gospels" shown in the Lawson but no Libraries seem to have it. It may be that a Librarian can find it better than I can. The Worldcat interface I have is a bit buggy.

This image does have alts in it.

In the sample I see one kind of f, one kind of c, two kinds of e, one kind of g. So it's mixed.

I think that the g must be there for the same reason the p with the short descender is - to make thighter interline space possible or to solve for a interline near miss with a g above & an f below.

Maybe if I contact the exiting firm I will be able to get the best answers about the intent behind these.

Antonio says he has some samples in use as well.

Hopefully this material will make it into my Atypi talk as well.


Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Eben, I sent you by email a picture taken from my Scritti di Giovanni Mardersteig sulla storia dei caratteri e della tipografia that shows Zeno. It’s not a text setting, but a specimen of the typeface. I see that Hrant’s image linked above does have many more glyphs in it, some look like alternates to improve fitting (wide and narrow versions of the same glyphs), but some other are just stylistic alternates, like the p with the protruding spur from the lower connection of the bowl stroke to the stem.

ebensorkin's picture

I think I agree with your analysis of the forms. It is a little hard to be sure until you see them at work in a setting. But still I think you are probably right. In the case of the spur p, I wonder if the spur might have some use at the start of a word eg "plow" vs "loped".

ebensorkin's picture

Antonio wrote me today to say that he spoke with the folks in question & they said that yes some of their special sorts were indeed there for fit. Not all - but some. They didn't mix them in at random either but instead kept them apart and used them deliberately in their hand composition. Viva Antonio! ( Antonio=Verbosus)

Stefan Seifert's picture

Hi Eben!

Did you see Raph Levians beautiful digital version of Zeno that he made with his spiro curves?
Maybe very interesting for you!

He participated on some threads in the past but I don’t know if he is still active in typophile.


If you need something from Mardersteig, let me know.
Maybe I can help.

ebensorkin's picture

I haven't look at it, but I should. Thanks for the heads up!

Thanks also for the offer of help with Mardersteig stuff! I will surly take you up on your kind offer one day soon.

Just at the moment because I am at the MATD program at Reading and tracking a specific line of research I am looking at French/Dutch 16th Century type.

I will contact you off line to ask you about that.

Stefan Seifert's picture



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