van den Velde

Sindre's picture

I'm absolutely in love with this type, scanned and uploaded by John Hudson in this old post:

So I'm wondering if anyone has some information about this lovely typeface and its author. I can't find much on the Internet, I guess van den Velde is Jan van den Velde (1568--1623), calligrapher and author of "Spieghel der Schrijfkonste", but that's about everything. This little scan has been very influental in the drawing of my first oldstyle-experiment, so I've become very curious about this wonderfully idiosyncratic type.

John Hudson's picture

This type is by Jacobus van de Velde, not Jan. Sorry, I should have been more specific in the original post. Harry Carter notes that ‘Jacobus van de Velde’ is recorded as a bookseller in Amsterdam at the time of his marriage in 1682 and of his death in 1709’. An undated type specimen bearing his name in the Enschedé collection is thought to have been produced around 1699.

Here's what the Enschedé/Carter Typefoundries in the Netherlands (the source of this image, fig.110 p.140) has to say about the provenance of this type:

‘The matrices owned by Alberts & Uytwerf also passed eventually to the Brothers Ploos van Amstel. Among the types we acquired from them we still have one of the types offered for sale by Van de Velde. It is our English-bodied Roman No.28. In our collection there is also one of the types shown in the earliest specimen of Alberts & Uytwerf, the [Large] Two-line Small Pica Roman No.29...’

This No.29 is very similar in style to the van de Velde roman.

The image above is from an Enschedé re-setting of the No.28 type as it appeared in van de Velde's original specimen. There are other specimens of the type in the Enschedé/Carter book, alongside No.29, but as reported in the other thread, this is a difficult book to scan or photograph on account of its size.

Sindre's picture

Thank you very much for the information! This really helps me a lot, now I know what to look for. I thought the type looked a little too revolutionary for late 16th century. Now I know why.

I wonder what a display cut of this typeface would look like, with all the quirkiness amplified. That compressed, almost skeletal s, the proud r, the slightly oblique a with its massive tail, that curious c and the decelerating e, the ethereally beautiful t ...

phrostbyte64's picture

I have to admit that it is very interesting, but that “c” looks busted. It must have been designed that way, but it still looks busted. We can call it curious.... I'd like to see more if you find it.


...from the Fontry

Sindre's picture

Yes, the c does look busted. It's a sad fact that we just cannot do something like this with digital type, it'd look retarded rather than strangely intriguing, as I think this does. But I think the s is even weirder, it looks as if it's from another typeface, its weight, width and angle is all wrong. The g also look weird in similar ways, from what we can see of it. It might be slightly corrupted by some lens distortion, though. And what was old Jacobus thinking when he cut that d? Another highly interesting thing is the differing obliqueness of several characters. And look at that enormous overshoot on the o and e, and that r stretching its nose toward the heavens. This typeface is even weirder than Fleischmann's weird stuff, in a more random way. Gee, I dig Baroque weirdness!

John Hudson's picture

The late afternoon light was nice, so I got out my camera and managed to get a reasonably good photograph of the full Enschedé resetting of the van de Velde roman specimen, which shows complete alphabets for uppercase, lowercase and smallcaps, as well as numerals and some punctuation. Sorry the photograph isn't as sharp as the one above.

Note that we don't know who cut this face. Van de Velde advertised the types for sale, but he is identified in records as a bookseller, not a type founder, so it is entirely likely that he was only the distributor, not the maker, of the type.

John Hudson's picture

Regarding the highly idiosyncratic c: this is one of those shapes of which, if I were attempting a usable revival, I would try to capture something of the feel, even while seeing the need to normalise it. The top can't hang out over the bottom that much, but it could hang out a little.

Sindre's picture

I'm really, really grateful for this! Thank you very much for your effort.

This typeface is even stranger than the first photograph gave an impression of, those capitals and small capitals are really something. And the numerals, oh boy! I'm going to drool over this specimen for quite some time.

It's a strange coincidence that the figures I've made for the typeface I'm working on, slightly inspired by the first specimen, are rather similar to these. And I thought my numerals were highly unhistoric ... I've only recently taken a serious interest in typography, so I really don't know much type history yet. Seems like I'm a Baroque fan, though.

Could you recommend a good book on early type history?

Sye's picture

this is a nice quirky face!

nina's picture

Wow, this is succulent and wonderful! I love the "a". And the "5". And…
This is truly one to drool over for hours. :-)

I wonder what happened to adieresis – that's a different "a". Might it have been added later / by someone else?

John Hudson's picture

Re. the a with diaeresis, I'm guessing that this character was missing from the matrices at Enschedé, so when then re-set the original JvdV specimen text they inserted a sort from another typeface.

eliason's picture

How is it that the ascenders and descenders overlap (see 3rd and 4th lines)?

kentlew's picture

Craig -- Presumably kerns*. Perhaps John can tell what size body this was cast upon.

[* The old-fashioned meaning, kids; not what the term is generally used for these days.]

eliason's picture

Hm, I always thought kerns in metal were just for horizontal overlaps, not vertical. Interesting.

kentlew's picture

It certainly wouldn't have been common, but I believe that vertical kerns (overhangs) were done on rare occasion. Obviously an oversized cast on a small body would require very careful composition to avoid colliding extenders (and careful handling so as not to knock those kerns off).

Not sure why that approach would have been taken with this particular face.

John Hudson's picture

How is it that the ascenders and descenders overlap (see 3rd and 4th lines)?

Very carefully, I would guess. :)

I don't think it is a feature of the type, but of this specific setting. On the same page in the Enschedé/Carter book, there is another showing of this type, a poem with much more generous linespacing (and featuring a long-s_t ligature that doesn't appear in the specimen setting).

The images above are from a painstaking re-setting of the type as it was shown in the original JvdV specimen, and my guess is that in order to fit as much type as possible onto the specimen this type was shown with negative leading. Since this was a one-off showing, my guess is that the blank tops of the sorts in the lower line were ground down to make room for the descenders. That would be easier than casting large on the body and vertically kerning descenders onto the face of the type below.

kentlew's picture

If it's a one-off situation, then yes, some combination of grinding and a kerning saw was probably used.

But we should realize that they would have been used more broadly than just fitting a few extenders. It looks to me like pretty much every line is affected and would require some careful fitting together, whether the extenders are in proximity or not.

Looks like it would have been quite a little puzzle to fit together.

eliason's picture

No chance it would have been printed one line at a time?

xtianhoff's picture

The 'n' and 'm' differ significantly. For instance. the top serif of the 'n' consistently looks larger than that of the 'm' and the corresponding notch is higher. It doesn't appear to be an effect of ink as it happens on both scans and consistently.

The weight of the verticals is a little different, the arch differs, the "feet" serifs on the 'n' look wider...

I'm partial to that 'n' (actually, I really, really like it) but it's very interesting that the differ that much and yet they both work with the other characters.

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