The Evolution of Type - Poster

buddhaboy's picture

In my ongoing search for interesting type related art for home, does anyone know of a nice poster design, showing the evolutionary milestones in the development of type, at least in the latin alphabet, from blackletter, through humanist, oldstyle, transitional, modern etc, along with important names and dates?

If none exists I think this would be a great project, and would produce something worthy of hanging on the office wall.

paragraph's picture

The dates are a problem because type 'evolution' is not linear. Blackletter is a milennium younger than Roman capitals.

blank's picture

From Mason’s History of the Art of Writing:

PublishingMojo's picture

When I was in high school, long before I dreamed that I would work for much of my adult life as a graphic designer, I bought this big box of "Foot-High Letters" that I found in a museum gift shop. It was a 1960s Dover reprint of a 1940 publication, probably originally intended for use in art classrooms.

They're really meant to show the distinguishing characteristics of type families rather than the history of type design, but they still make handsome conversation pieces.

A quick Google search turned up few UK dealers who list this set for the equivalent of US $10 or less.

PublishingMojo's picture

Oh wait, you're already in the UK . . .

Quincunx's picture

I have a poster that compares different alphabets; the Phoenician alphabet, early Greek, late Greek and then our alphabet. If you think it might be of interest to you, I can make a photo of it tomorrow.

I also have a fantastic bundle of poster-like things that shows different alphabets of around the world and a bit of the history of alphabets; see a few photo's on my flickr here, here and here. There are some more photo's of it on my photostream page here, at the bottom (unfortunately they're not currently in a seperate Set).

Florian Hardwig's picture

Stammbaum der Schrift [Family Tree of Type] is a poster published by the Bauersche Gießerei in 1937, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary.
Who ever thought Legende and Quick would represent the crowning glory of evolution?

buddhaboy's picture

Some great responses - thanks folks for taking time to reply. I'll look for that book, Mojo, it looks interesting none the less. Quincunx, nice samples, and I'd love to see that comparative poster... I like Florian's Family Tree of Type as well - very ornate (can you send me a high res copy or tell me where you found it?)

Now there's a thing... when you end an parenthesised sentence with a question mark, do you then need to close the parent sentence with a period?

Cheers all.

Quincunx's picture

I will make a few photos of that comparative poster asap then. :)

eliason's picture


nina's picture


On a related note: Here's a poster showing the history & succession of metal
type foundries in Germany starting with Gutenberg.
Christian Büning, who makes these, is on the German Typoforum, so I could
get you in touch with him.

Florian Hardwig's picture

I found it in the Flickr stream of Robert Michael. You can try asking him for a hi-res copy.

buddhaboy's picture

Thanks Quincunx. Eliason, LOL... shouldn't there be an ape in there somewhere?

Altaira, thanks, that poster looks like a close match to what I'm after... I looked at the webpage, but not being multi-lingual, I couldn't make out the accompanying text. I'll have a go at putting it through the google translator, but it'll probably come out like some drunken haiku.

Thanks... I'd buy one off the webpage, but I don't even know if that Paypal button is for the full sized poster?


nina's picture

Steve, here's a quick translation of the text on that web site. Sorry if it sounds garbled – my brain's like 99% full of my font right now :-)

An educational poster for real connoisseurs of the Black Art. For the first time, this overview shows all German type foundries, as well as more than 200 takeovers and transfers, as a logical, genealogical tree. Connecting lines highlight individual developments. The resulting view clearly outlines the rise and bloom of the Black Art, as well as its abrupt termination by the rise of phototype.
Gutenberg was the first European to print with movable type. His idea quickly found enthusiastic followers, who continued to spread type casting throughout Germany and Europe. This new technology brought forth numerous new typefaces, the most important of which are displayed on the poster.

I can recommend Christian's posters, though I haven't seen this one; I have his 2009 calendar poster and it's beautifully laid out and printed. I'm pretty sure he speaks English, so you could also email him directly with any further questions (there's an email link on the "Impressum" page).

Stephen Rapp's picture

I don't know about poster, but for a info a really good book is Explicatio Formarum Litterarum -The Unfolding of Letterforms by Rutherford Aris. I got a complimentary copy at my first calligraphy conference in 1990. It covers first to 15th centuries very thoroughly with pullout timeline charts, lots of samples and notes.
Don't know how available it is currently. Amazon shows it as unavailable, but John Neal has it in his site:

paragraph's picture

If the poster or overview started at Renaissance, perhaps it would serve Steve's original purpose. Anything in the first thousand AD is about hand-writing ... am I right in assuming that the revival of Roman letterforms was only possible with moveable type?


_null's picture

a hammer & chisel was kinda quintessential too.

aszszelp's picture

Tracking. That Explicatio seems very promising... have to check it out.


jabez's picture

It would be great if any of the experts could comment on the information presented in this?

Quincunx's picture

> It would be great if any of the experts could comment on the information presented in this?

Well I see Alessandro Segalini's name on that PDF, who is a frequent member of this board, so I think it's probably ok. :)

eliason's picture

If you need a timeline of key type designs, this strikes me as a better place to start than that pdf.

scottsullivan's picture

woaa great link eliason!

- Scott

paragraph's picture

Craig: that web site is THE best resource on type, thanks.

This one is from the 1982 Berthold Headlines E3, and has not withhstood the test of time well ;-(

The high resolution is here.


Quincunx's picture

I wish they'd slightly scale up that timeline on 100types, i.e. more space. It's way too crowded and crammed together right now to comfortably read.

satya's picture

Have you seen the "History" from Peter Bil'ak? It's a typeface system shows how typography evolved over the period.

Mans's picture

At home I have a wonderful if somewhat nonsensical German poster titled "Stammbaum der Schrift", which shows the evolution of writing as a family tree. I'm at the office right now, but as I recall, Latin capitals are near the bottom, and Futura and Bodoni are at the top. :)

I should be able to upload a photo tomorrow.


Tim Ahrens's picture

Alexander Tarbeev has compiled a massive timeline at but it's in Russian (and you need to set the encoding to Unicode manually to display it properly).

Miss Tiffany's picture

I have a poster which I purchased in Offenbach at the Klingspor museum. It is a tree showing how all styles fit together. Of course it doesn't include anything new, but that is ok with me.

peterf's picture

"Of course it doesn’t include anything new, but that is ok with me."

mee too



Thomas Phinney's picture

It would be great if any of the experts could comment on the information presented in this?

Huh. That PDF in turn cites the URL for an article I wrote as its source (though it has a number of added milestones and dates, I think).


buddhaboy's picture

Guys (and gals) thank you so much for all of the info... The webpage timeline, and that PDF are absolutely perfect for me to use as a learning/memory aid.

One of my greatest ambitions (and the reason for my ongoing research) is to eventually create a general purpose typeface that will go some way to bringing back the notion of the serif into contemporary typography... I love what Erik Spiekermann et al have done with Meta Serif... I am convinced it's the way things will go, certainly in corporate usage (anyone think it will catch on in other areas?)

Part of my research turned up an amazing fact, when I discovered I live barely 2 miles from Baskerville's birthplace... I meantioned this to a friend recently who laughed at my wanting to visit the place and wondered if I might be wanting to become a great typographer through osmosis. I know it's not so easy!


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