Earliest examples of scripts reproduced in type

Bald Condensed's picture

I have been invited to do a presentation about digital handwriting and calligraphy in three months. For this I would like to retrace the evolution of the reproduction of scripts in type, from the earliest days of metal type to feature-rich OpenType scripts. As I don't have any academic background in typography I would like to fact-check the earliest examples of scripts in metal type. I am not looking to be exhaustive, but want to have the key moments down.

Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468) > first textur type, based on blackletter handwriting (c. 1450–55)

Aldus Manutius (1449–1515)/Francesco Griffo (1450–1518) > first italic type, based on cancellaresca handwriting

Robert Granjon (1513–1589) > Civilité (1557), script with spectacular kerns

What are the other key moments/scripts between the 16th century and the 20th? From the 20th century on I will only focus on scripts that are designed to look like (connected) handwriting, because this has to lead me to OpenType features that help simulate this.

Mistral, ingenious connected script (Roger Excoffon, 1953)

What are the first examples in metal type of formal calligraphic penmanship, like the copperplate-style scripts?

dstype's picture

Hi Yves,

"Aldus Manutius (1449–1515)/Francesco Griffo (1450–1518) > first italic type, based on cancellaresca handwriting"

I think is the other way around: the Cancellaresca was based on the italics cut by Grifo. The first italic script was invented by Ludovico Vicentino de'll Arrighi, and published in the Operina, around 1527, also known as "humanistica cursiva" and later, in several countries like Spain and Portugal, was also known as Bastarda (bastard) because it was a deviation from its original (Grifo).

Hope this help.

Bald Condensed's picture

It sure helps, Dino, thanks for correcting that.

PabloImpallari's picture

--- Roman Type ---
Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz
Created the first roman type in the world
Nicholas Fabian
Early Masters of type design

--- Formal Scripts ---
The Universal Penman
George Bickham

MacKellar Smith and Jordan (ATF Predecesor) - 40 Points Spencerian Script - Ornamented Capitals

Royal Script - Central Type Foundry Branch, ATF

Bank Script - James West, BB&S

Commercial Script (a Spencerian script) Inland Type Foundry

Typo Script - Morris Fuller Benton

Typo Upright (Originally Tiffany Upright) - Morris Fuller Benton

Commercial Script - Morris Fuller Benton

Society Script - Deberny and Peignot

Palace Script by Stephenson Blake and Monotype

Troubador, Edmund Thiele, Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei

Forelle - Erich Mollowitz, Buffalo Type Foundry

Brush Script - Robert E Smith, ATF

Baltimore Script, Baltimore Type Foundry
Juliet, Nebiolo

Formal Script - R.H. Middleton, Ludlow
Murray Hill - Emil Klumpp, ATF

Kunstler Script - Hans Bohn, Stempel (A great one)

Freestyle Script - Martin Wait, Letrast - (The Digital version should be fixed to connect as it was supposed to)

Young Baroque - Doyald Young

Young Gallant - Doyald Young

hrant's picture

I assume you'll also be talking about the wondrous Mister K!


Nick Shinn's picture

See my post of Feb. 20, 2009, 4.51am:

My notes on the origins of OpenType Contextual Alternates:

Also an article I wrote in 2004:

John Hudson's picture

I think is the other way around: the Cancellaresca was based on the italics cut by Griffo. The first italic script was invented by Ludovico Vicentino de'll Arrighi, and published in the Operina, around 1527....

Arrighi's cancellaresca represents a formalisation of the humanist cursive hand. It's accurate to suggest that this was in response to the typographic italic, part of the flowering of fine writing in reaction to print publishing that occurred in the 16th Century in Italy and elsewhere, but incorrect to say that 'the first italic script' was invented by Arrighi and based on the Griffo italic types. Griffo's italic types -- and the Aldine pocket editions for which they were cut -- were inspired by contemporary informal copy books, written in the style classified by Michelle P. Brown as littera humanistica corsiva libraria. The specimen shown in Brown's book, A guide to western historical scripts from antiquity to 1600, is from 1483. Examples in the catalogue Rome Reborn are dated to the third quarter of the 15th Century.

What Arrighi and the other writing masters of the 16th Century do is to take what had been a quickly written scholars' hand, relatively messy and inconsistent -- characteristics reflected in Griffo's types -- and restyle it as an elegant secretarial hand. As I say, this is part of the scribal reaction to print publishing: losing the copyist market to type, they improve the quality of their product, making writing a luxury item instead of a commodity. Arrighi then, in turn, translates his improved italic hand into type, and other printers base their italics on the hands of particular writing masters. [Mardersteig makes a convincing case, for example, that Marcolini's italic types are based on models provided by Francesco Alunno, probably the greatest calligrapher of his time.]

Bald Condensed's picture

Pablo & Nick, thanks a heap!

Hrant, I am not sure yet. FF Mister K is more casual handwriting than lettering/calligraphy, and the event I am talking at is specifically about calligraphy. The end of my exploration will be Liza Pro, as that is one hell of a clever face that beautifully simulates advertising scripts.

hrant's picture

Oh, I thought by "digital handwriting and calligraphy" you meant two things.


De Franceschi's picture

Hello Yves,
The Civilté type you mentioned is surely a crucial point in the development of modern script types; it is highly influent on the 'ronde' (or 'financière') and other 'French' scripts popular well into the last century (they are usually upright, bearing some gothic component and suggesting the use of a rigid, truncated pen).
The work of Pierre Moreau, from the 1640s, is another milestone: it shows the influence of his contemporary calligraphic (and typographic) styles, namely the changes in the way the pen is cut (informed by Cresci) and the delicate thin strokes related to copperplate engraving; Moreau's hand is slow, round, 'engraved'. The so-called 'copperplate' or 'English' style (it will dominate the field of formal scripts up until no long ago) descends from that path, notably taking its mature shape in the hands of Thomas Cottrell, in the 1770s; according to Morison the same derivation applies to most of the other so-called 'round hands'.
Another notable fact is the introduction in the US of the 'circular scripts', in the second half of the 19th Century, some of whose reach a degree of informality never seen before (and hardly later, until Excoffon times). I think formality is the key to understand, analyze and describe script typefaces; this becomes more and more true from the 1930s, (the decade when the most exciting things happen in the field, in my opinion).
This is a bit of a quick comment, please get in touch if you need reference texts or anything else: I'm happy to help, if I can; and do forgive my Italo-English.

hrant's picture

> Moreau

Do I remember correctly that Dyana Weissman was a big fan of his work?
If so it might be worth getting in touch with her.


hrant's picture

Nevermind, I just remembered that was Motteroz.
(I do have samples of Moreau somewhere though.)


blank's picture

Don’t forget about The Theuerdank. German wikipedia has lots of info, as does Updike.

Bald Condensed's picture

Does anyone know when the first movable type on slanted body was produced?

oldnick's picture

Eurocentrism and metallurgy bias seduces us into forgetting that the Chinese were using movable type long before Gutenberg...

hrant's picture

Not to mention the Koreans. But CJK scripts don't have a tradition of slanted forms (which can damage when kerned beyond the rectangle).


Bald Condensed's picture

Fair enough, but my talk was about reproducing script designs in movable type, so this is irrelevant. :)

hrant's picture

You know about "wing set" sorts, right?


hrant's picture

I found an "open-air" scan I'd once made of a "wing set" sort:

Basically the body was not slanted (it was rectangular, but much narrower than the glyph width) but they put massive slanting supports for the kerns to avoid breakage. Expensive stuff. BTW this font was called Excelsior IIRC; I once used it to make sarcastic letterpress cards that said "Don't Mention It / PLEASE*", which you're supposed to send in response to those pretentious "Thank You" cards... :-) I donated a pack of ten to the TypeCon-SF auction. Anyway, as you were.

* The "PLEASE" set in a narrow grot, smaller.


Bald Condensed's picture

Yes, Armina Ghazaryan sent me images of such a "wing set" sort from the MIAT Ghent type collection. Is that the official name for this type of type?

hrant's picture

It's the only term I've heard. I think I got it from the McGrew book.


HVB's picture

These may not quite fit your category, but some typewriters were permanently configured with script. In addition, most later typewriters with interchangeable elements had script elements available. These included IBM and Smith-Corona type balls and the many printing terminals and desk printers that had type wheels.

Somewhere I have an envelope with separate elements that replaced (or went over) a typewriter's hammer-style elements. While mine aren't script, I have little doubt that they would have been offered.

- Herb

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