Pre-1900 Serif Font Used by George Bell and Sons?

James M.'s picture

I'm looking for help identifying the font used in the introduction to this 1898 book published by George Bell and Sons. I tried WhatTheFont and didn't find anything close. I also tried Identifont and it suggested Fleischman BT Pro Bold, which is in the right ballpark but not quite right.

This should be a link directly to the first page of the introduction:

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433066623293;page=root;view=...

And the whole book is available from Google: http://books.google.com/books?id=olgCAAAAYAAJ

Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Even if you can't help, if anybody has any advice about how to approach a historical question like this one, that would also be helpful as well.

Sample:

Edited to include lower resolution sample in post

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Font sample.jpg68.1 KB
Lower res.jpg35.29 KB
oldnick's picture

There are resemblances to Miller and Richards' Old Style, as well as ATF's Old Roman; unfortunately, I don't think either has been digitized...

bowfinpw's picture

A problem (for me) with your sample is that there are no upper case letters. Using the structural features of the a, b, e, g and y there were 109 serif families that were potential matches. Many are obviously not close, but because there are many fonts based on old types some could be close, but without seeing the upper case letters (especially E, J, K, M, R, U and W) it is not easy to eliminate many of them.

Assuming you have a sample that shows many of those, you can use the Serif Font ID Guide to see if any fonts are close to your sample.

- Mike Yanega

James M.'s picture

I hadn't tried it with the Serif Font ID Guide—I'll give it a try and see what I come up with.

You're also completely right about the sample being all lowercase. That was pretty dumb of me. Here's another sample with a bunch of capital letters:

The Q is pretty distinctive.

bowfinpw's picture

I looked at the title page and found a few upper case letters. Using those I would say Caslon SB from Scangraphics, or Caslon Rough from E+F, or the font called Coldstyle could all be reasonably similar styles in digital form.

- Mike Yanega

James M.'s picture

The guide didn't really come up with anything close

--

Here's a W:

And here's a J:

(Neither letter were in the sample I posted above, but both were needed for the guide.)

--

Does anyone have any general advice on how to go about researching a historical font like this? I'm new to the world of typography, but I have a solid background in how to conduct research and am not afraid of the library—I just really don't know where to start on a question like this.

If George Bell and Sons was still in business, I would probably end up sending them a letter asking if they had any clue, but they went out of business in the 1980s.

James M.'s picture

Thanks Mike, I'll take a look at those three.

Atwe's picture

The typeface is called Binny Old Style in my opinion.I don't know if it exists in a digital format.

bowfinpw's picture

I don't think Binney OS is the answer. The tail of the 'y' in Binney is too short, for one thing. Binney isn't old enough, for another, since it was designed in 1908.

I think Caslon is a reasonable choice, and Caslon has the right Q also. It has been one of the most widely used typefaces for at least 150 years. Caslon was designed in 1725.

- Mike Yanega

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