Preparing a book about forgotten typefaces: help needed

David Rault's picture

Hello fellow typophiles,

I am currently preparing a book in french and english, due to be released in Europe and America around september 2009 at Atelier Perrousseaux publishing (the french publisher of Adrian Frutiger books), about 'forgotten typefaces': alphabets which have been drawn, possibly cast and used 500, 100 or 30 years ago but, for numerous reasons, didn't make it (yet) to the digital age and are not available on any computer.

The increasing rarity or lack of documentation about these might bring them to complete extinction, so I thought it would be a great idea to document these letters and their authors, and to provide good quality, high resolution prints of them for the courageous designers who would have the good idea to digitize them, or simply for the pleasure to see these letters again and again.

I already have quite a big amount of documentation, but I am very much looking for help: if you have any document (visual and/or text) about a 'forgotten typeface', I'd be very happy to consider it. Be sure that any help will be thoroughly aknowledged in the book.

Thank you in advance,

ps: In the framework of this project, I am looking for some high resolution scans from the "book of oz" which I (unfortunetaly) still don't own. If some good (and lucky) soul wants to help...

David Rault's picture

Hello everyone,

First of all, about the book: I of course do not intend even one second to create a book only for hackers to scan/trace the outlines and put it on the Internet. I will state very clearly in the text that the purpose, in the case of a designer wanting to revive the designs, is to give enough visual material for them work hard in order to give the digital recreation the level of excellency it deserves. Now, I sure hope it will be the case, but I don't really have the power or control over all of the people who are going to buy the book. If some of them are going to make a quick scan, that's a pity, but it shouldn't, in my point of view, stop me from making the book. I am aware that the comparison is not the best one, but it would be like not releasing any DVD anymore because some hackers will turn them into Divx and share them with the world for free in a lower resolution. Just as I read above, negative thinking only brings negativity. All I want is to put some light on great designs and great designers which are now known and available only to the happy few who have the old and costly specimen books in their shelves to the wide audience, free for them to do what they want with it as long as, and again it will be stated very clearly in the book, they respect the ethics and eventually copyrights of the material shown.

Some may still think I'm a bad guy, I feel sorry for them, I hope one day they will understand how candidly good are my intentions, and how hopefully good will be the outcome of this book.


piccic's picture

David, there's to say that if you wish to properly address the idea of a conscious digital version, a good deal of samples for each typeface should be there. This, besides the difficulty in gathering it, reduces considerably the possible number of typefaces included, but it also forces the readers to a degree of awareness making it almost impossible to consider "autotracing". When you provide two or three lead samples of optical sizes, it would be difficult for a hacker to proceed: first he will have to see why there were optical versions in the first place… Of course, he still can go on and produce his dreadful toy-face, but he will have something to reflect upon…

So, I think you have two options:
1) Provide just a basic showing in order to present more typefaces: this way, with an adequate presentation, the designers intrigued by the value of the originals, will be invited to start a serious search of original printed samples.
2) Have less typefaces presented, but presented with a great deal of samples, to allow a serious digital version. I think this proves difficult, as it took me years to gather extensive printed samples of Nebiolo typefaces (lead type used to wear out, so the best thing are the original specimens…)

An example: Behrens Antiqua's original specimen from 1908, on Abebooks.
Of course, the price it's quite a madness, I hope cheaper copies can be found…
I paid most of the Nebiolo specimens I bought a price between 15 and 30 Euros. Of course there are sellers which offer them at ten times these prices, but it's the rarity of this material which makes its acquisition problematic.

Nick Shinn's picture

Some may still think I’m a bad guy, I feel sorry for them,

David, I have never questioned your motives, so please, spare me your pity.
Perhaps you will find this discussion of typographic swipe books in the digital era useful in developing your project; whether or not you follow Claudio's thoughtful suggestions.

Any foundry type specimen may be considered as swipe material; Johnston, in Alphabets to Order theorizes that one reason for using "quousque tandem abutere..." as specimen text was the limited alphabetic showing it offered copyists.

No doubt "swipe" is too loaded a word--a rejoinder to your somewhat inflated view of what you're doing, that is hopefully no longer required--so in future I'll refer to the genre as "source book", after the dust jacket blurb of Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering (Omega, 1985) by Jan Tschichold, no less:

During the 1950s and 1960s, many source books were published, such as Art Directors' Book of Type Faces by J.I. Biegelsen (Arco, 1963)--which enabled the letters to be photostatted (to piece together headlines), used as models for lettering artists, or to be traced by art directors for making marker-rendered comps:

Both the above are thoughtfully provided at around A4/8.5" x 11" size, for ease of copying.

Recently, Alphabets and Other Signs and its sequel are good examples of "quality" source books.

Nick Shinn's picture

Le Champlevé, a Deberny et Peignot face licensed by Stephenson & Blake.
This from 1937.

metalfoot's picture

Paganini by Alessandro Butti I haven't found in a digital form yet. There is a PDF which has a sample of it:

William Berkson's picture

That's really delightful, Nick.

piccic's picture

Paganini by Alessandro Butti I haven’t found in a digital form yet.

A properly done digital version would be an infernal task to undertake.
But, again, "properly done" would be the only way to do it, considered its delicacy…

David Rault's picture

Metalfoot: thanks for the input, I'll look into it.

Nick: this is indeed a very beautiful typeface. Thank you for the heads-up.


piccic's picture

David, if and whenever the approach to the book will be more defined, let us know.
There may be some Italian face which no one will ever digitize that could prove good to show.

David Rault's picture

piccic: you may let me know about this typeface right now, for I am still in the process of finding fonts worth speaking of.

you can send me an email if you want: davidrault (a)


Celeste's picture

Joseph Blumenthal’s Monotype Emerson (1930–35)

kentlew's picture

Emerson has been digitally revived by distinguished book designer & typographer Jerry Kelly. I'm pretty sure Kelly was a student and friend of Blumenthal's, so he's eminently qualified to have done this revival. Fonts can be licensed from

-- Kent.

piccic's picture

@David: Did you set yourself a deadline? Problem is there are some, but I would like to see part of them properly digitized, and I began working on one family myself, and the plan would maybe to do more, as my friend Antonio comes back from Reading next year.
An example could be the aforementioned Paganini, although I do not have a full specimen.

I would like to know if you have already developed a guiding idea in one or the other direction I mentioned, however. Nick's remarks may sound a little "rude" (LOL) but he's basically right about the need of giving to such a book a decisive direction.

If there is a thing that I deprecate are things done in an "anything goes" way, and most of what we see in Italy right now is in that vein…

@EDIT: Kent, thanks for the link. The forms of his unreleased "Inscripta" are quite related to my interests, I'd like to see more of it…

David Rault's picture

Piccic: Nick was right about a lot of subjects, even if he clearly doesn't know how to express it in a nice way :-)

My plan for now is to show a few typefaces (not more than 20, at most), but to document them and their authors as much as possible. For example, I will include the fonts designed by Jean Alessandrini in the seventies, very beautiful and poetic, which have never been digitized so far and are quite impossible to see and use; and for this, I actually called Alessandrini 3 weeks ago, and he's delighted to give me any help I need (he fortunately kept all his original drawings, documents...). I think this is the best way to make this book. Now, all I hope is to be able to find good documents about the fonts I plan to expose: visuals, of course, but also information on the author and the foundry.

I hope it's a little bit more clear now,


piccic's picture

Hmm… I think we may choose Paganini, by Raffaello Bertieri and Alessandro Butti, which was released starting in 1926. Although I do not have a specific original specimen about it, with Antonio we keep collecting material about the history of Nebiolo, Italian typography of 1900 in general, and Raffaello Bertieri and his work.
Do you mind if I ask Antonio prior to this? We are doing this research together and right now he's here in Modena for the Christmas holidays.

David Rault's picture

Piccic: of course, no hurry.


Uli's picture

Forgotten typefaces not yet mentioned in this thread:

Uli's picture

For other specimens of Erbar Grotesk see

bieler's picture


Richard Beatty Designs released a "Cancellaresca Bastarda" many many years ago as Romulus Bastarda. Ten fonts total.

Somewhat of an alternative to David's quest might be, which digital fonts have been forgotten (and even lost) either because of format changes, market disinterest, or the current politics of the profession.


piccic's picture

I would definitely include Erbar, if you find material. There is no decent digital version, and Erbar is great.

quadibloc's picture

I had recalled, from discussions here, a couple of "forgotten" types which don't meet the criterion of this thread, since there were digital versions of them: Emerson, already mentioned, is one; and Barbou another.

I'm in favor of having high-resolution reproductions of the faces in the book, simply because otherwise they may be difficult and expensive to find. Even people carefully redrawing the face, not just those quickly scanning a version, would find a high-resolution scan helpful.

But, since (as I do agree) the needs of those doing the faces properly are more important than those of those just doing poor-quality scanned versions, I would like to give this recommendation: don't just include a high-resolution image of the typefaces derived from a specimen at a large point size; if specimens at smaller point sizes, especially typical text sizes (8, 9, 10 points) are available, include those! That is what will really be needed by someone wanting to do any of these older typefaces justice.

David Rault's picture

Hello everyone,

This rather old thread came back up, so I thought I'd drop a line.

My initial project was to tricky to handle, so it turned into making a big book about Roger Excoffon, which I did. It was released in may 2011, and is available in a bilingual edition, french and english (translation provided by Hrant Papazian). You may check it here:

I actually gave a lecture at the Rencontres de Lure last august; maybe some of you were there. I just released (as a collection director) a monography of François Boltana, written by Frank Adebiaye and Suzanne Cardinal, and I am currently working on a monography of Jean Alessandrini, a forgotten and talented typographer. It is due for 2012.

I didn't totally gave up my project for this book, but it's not my priority anymore. I just wanted to thank again all the people who gave me ideas and informations in this thread.

David Rault

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