Which typefaces would have been particularly used in mid-late Victorian England?

Magnakai's picture

I'm doing some design that is meant to feel contemporary for somewhere around 1850-1870 in the UK, particularly London. I'm a bit of a type noob, and I was looking for some general advice.

I'm not entirely sure where to find good examples, though I've looked at the Wikipedia pages for the following typefaces. I've listed the reason I'm cautious about using them beside their names:

Much too early, and apparently fell out of favour until the 1917 revival.
Created at the end of the 18th century (edit: more like the mid-16th...) - would it have fallen out of fashion in the intervening period?
Again, could be too early, and not very British.
A bit more appropriate date-wise, but would it have made the transition to the UK?
Scotch Roman
Right time period, but according to Wikipedia it was "popular in the early nineteenth century, particularly in the United States and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom." So a possibility, but probably not the foremost choice.
While it was created much too early, according to Wikipedia it "saw a revival between 1840–80 as a part of the British Arts and Crafts movement." Furthermore, it suggests that "for many years a common rule of thumb of printers and typesetters was When in doubt, use Caslon." This makes me think it's probably the best pick.

For what it's worth, this is almost certainly going to end up as a series of screen-exclusive work. I'm looking for both display and body type. Any print that comes about will be a secondary product. And obviously, I might go make an aesthetic choice to go with something historically inaccurate.

Has anyone got any thoughts they'd care to share? Any further opinions or suggestions would be welcomed. Many thanks for reading!

Mark Simonson's picture

The best approach would be to find some examples from the era and then try to find current day typefaces that match or are similar. It sounds like you're asking about text faces, but it would be good to clarify that.

As far as Caslon goes, the Caslon we know of today is more like the original Caslon (late 18th century). But descendants of Caslon types were pretty popular in the late 19th century, usually called "old style" at the time. Examples of the genre are Bruce Old Style, Old Style No. 7, and Monotype Old Style.

"Modern" faces, along the lines of Nick Shinn's Scotch Modern, were also popular in the late 19th century.

Mugford's picture

"Garamond - Created at the end of the 18th century - would it have fallen out of fashion in the intervening period?"

M. Garamond died in 1561.

And Mark is right: find some printed (or scanned) examples.

Magnakai's picture

Thanks for the reply Mark. That information about Caslon is very useful. I definitely like both Bruce Old Style and Monotype Old Style. Also, Scotch Modern's lovely!

I'm looking for both text and title faces, I suppose. In reality, I'm more likely to use something authentic for titles/headings and something that feels right, but is practical and legible for the text.

Magnakai's picture

Oops. Thanks for the spot Mugford!

I'm not looking for a specific match, I'm more interested in what kinds of typefaces would've been in wide usage back then.

Mark Simonson's picture

For headings and boldface, you might want to look at "antiques" or "egyptians" (slab serifs) and "grotesques" (early British sans serifs).

oldnick's picture

According to Printing Types: Their History, Form and Use, Didones were popular in Great Britain in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and Caslon experienced a revival starting around 1844, which reinforces Mark Simonson's observations.

Nick Shinn's picture

The Scotch Modern was the default in that time period. (Not the same as Scotch Roman.)
You should be able to pick up a copy of Punch magazine from that era -- there are still a lot around at flea markets etc.
There you can see it in use.
This style was quite international, and found everywhere from North America to Russia.

Magnakai's picture

Well Nick, [Bad link] extremely excited review of your typefaces, along with your [Bad link] has swayed me. Hopefully a couple of faces will fit within my budget. By the way, the Figgins stuff is amazing. I had no idea so many beautiful type specimens were available online. Thank you!

sevag's picture

Hi all, not exactly from around 1850-1870's, below are two examples from my personal collection. The first one from The Illustrated London News, 1897 and the second one from The Graphic Summer Number, 1883.


Nick Shinn's picture

If you really want to nail the style of a particular era within the 19th century, you need to read Nicolete Gray's Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces.

Don't be misled by the word "Ornamented"—this is a history of the changing styles in typography, decade by decade, in which Grey relates the trends in type to contemporary styles in art and architecture.

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