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A history of the "humanist" type classification.

The classification of type designs seems to be a problem that is perennially addressed but never solved. Writing on type classification largely falls into two camps. The first, usually appearing in handbooks or similar instructional contexts, presents type classification as an inherited set of categories that should be understood by the reader as the established jargon of typography. The second camp argues that existing classifications of type designs are problematic for one reason or another, and often proposes a new scheme that is argued to be more responsive to the needs of typographers or to an understanding of the typefaces that populate the current world of typography. However, preservationists and reformists alike have paid little attention to the historical situations that shaped type categories and the terminology used to label them. An examination of the historical contexts of older classification schemes shows that not only type design, but also type classification and labeling, are cultural products. This is revealed by research on the label "humanist" as applied to type.

Humanist is a label commonly used to characterize type designs today. However, historically its applications have been inconsistent. For example, Maximilien Vox's employment of "humanes" in his influential 1954 classification scheme did not codify an already accepted category; before Vox, the term was rarely used for type, and when it was, it sometimes referred to types other than those that Vox would group under his labels. Moreover, the stylistic features that distinguish a humanist serifed font in Vox's scheme are not the same features that distinguish the faces later named humanist sans types.

Given these vagaries of definition, it is worth asking how and why humanist has persisted as a label. I argue that, while the term specifically denotes certain fifteenth-century texts, it was the term's connotations that made it attractive to Vox and that warranted its use in classifications thereafter. Examining the changing meanings of humanism in different contexts and at different times will help account for the persistent attractiveness the term held for classifiers of type designs in the twentieth century.

In this article, I will first look at the origins of the term humanist. Then I will take a closer look at Vox's 1954 classification scheme and its relationship to prevailing terminology in the printing world. I will trace more generally how the word humanist was used, and how those uses changed in the twentieth century. That broader history, I will contend, attracted Vox to the term. In the second half of the article, I will consider how, when, and why humanist has been applied to sans-serif designs by classifiers after Vox. This will require an investigation into the letterforms of, and rhetoric surrounding, two humanist sans-serif examples, Gill Sans and Optima.

The path by which humanist came to be used as a descriptor of letterforms consisted of a chain of associations. The chain began with humanist scholars working in the Italian Renaissance period of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; indeed, the very notion of the Renaissance--a rebirth of classical civilization--took shape in large measure due to these humanists' scholastic interests in classical learning; that is, the cultural and intellectual heritage of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanist was first applied to these Italian Renaissance scholars of classics, and then by association to their books, and only then to letterforms, namely, the scripts in which those books were written.

In 1946, Augusto Compana surveyed the earliest uses of the term, and concluded that, "[i]n its original sense, the word is closely connected with the scholastic system: it qualifies a person as a public or private teacher of classical literature, of the chair of humanitas or umanita." (1) He hastened to add that some of the instances of its use in sixteenth-century Italian texts "point to a second phase in which the word assumes a more comprehensive and general meaning. It refers to the student of classical learning who is not necessarily also a teacher." (2)

Humanist, then, began as a reference to professional scholars or students interested in classicism. Naturally, the tools of their study were primarily books. As Martin Davies declares, "[a]ll humanists were consumers, and usually also producers, of books in manuscript." (3) Given this, humanists' books--the realization of their scholarly interest in classicism--can also be described as humanist.

The books written by humanists earn distinction not only by their subject matter, but also by the distinctive forms of their writing. Therefore, the term humanist is applicable not only to humanists' books, but also to their scripts. (4) The script preferred by the humanists for their books was purposefully old-fashioned, to suit their ancient topics. However, the oldest available manuscripts of their beloved classical texts actually dated not to the ancient epoch but to the Carolingian era--beginning around the year 800. (5) Humanists in Florence modeled their writing on these treasured texts. Davies calls the resulting humanistic script "a round, upright, formal book-hand characterized by spaciousness, avoidance of abbreviation and of fusion of letters, and reformed spelling." (6) Soon scribes began to model their majuscule letters after Imperial Roman inscriptions, and paired these Trajanesque capitals with the Carolingian-inspired minuscules. (7) In their efforts to harmonize the two, scribes began to alter the small letters. They made them straighter and more separate, and added baseline serifs and other details that lessened the pen-written character and increased the suggestion of the chisel.

This was the state of book production in Italy at the time that movable-type printing arrived. Such printing came to Italy with two Germans, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who established a press in Subiaco and began issuing books in 1464 and 1465. (8) Responding to the active trade of humanist books in Italy, they mostly published classical books. As one might expect, they designed their types after the prevalent humanistic script, although historians often characterize their multiple attempts as groping and only partially successful. The real triumph of a harmonious, humanist-inspired type design is often credited to Nicolas Jenson, a Frenchman working in Venice. Jenson's 1470 type design has been called "the most highly praised of all romans" (figs. 1 and 2). (9) It was Jenson's pioneering typeface that, centuries later, would be seen by Maximilien Vox as the archetypal humanist design.


Humanist was firmly established as a class of type designs by Maximilien Vox, the most prominent name in the endeavor of classifying type. Working in the mid-twentieth century, the Frenchman Vox laid out a ten-part categorization scheme of types based on their formal qualities. (10) Serifed roman text types spanned four of Vox's categories, grouped chronologically by the emergence of the style. The first of these categories was labeled humanes. Humanes consisted of the types that Venetian Renaissance printers like Jenson invented in emulation of humanist script, and the more recent revivals thereof.

Typeface classification was a modern phenomenon. The need for a functional typeface classification scheme had become more pressing in the early twentieth century, as traced by Beatrice Warde in 1935. Warde reminds us that, in the early nineteenth century, although novel display faces had already begun to proliferate, printers usually stocked one book face in a given size. By the turn of the twentieth century, publishers could expect a choice between "modern" and "old face" types for their books. Then the advances in punchcutting and type-compositing technology, as well as the broader consciousness of type design inspired by the private press movement, accelerated the supply of and demand for many different typeface options. With this multiplication, Warde argues, came the need for what she called "a new subdivision of the study of the book arts, namely, the comparison and proper classification and designation of type faces, old and new." (11) Warde, herself an employee of the Monotype Corporation, might have also cited the industrialization of printing as a contributing factor to the need for classification. When printing was a trade, terms needed to be shared only within the shop; now that publishing had become an industry, with market internationalization and corporate consolidation, broader communication needs were felt, and the pressure to standardize typographic jargon increased. Dissatisfied by initial attempts to classify type such as those based on serif shape advanced by Francis Thibaudeau in the 1920s, trade journals and printing handbooks repeatedly decried the confusing and disorganized status of type-design nomenclature. (12) By the 1950s, the typography industry clamored for an organized and functional classification scheme.

Vox, a respected typographer, answered the call with his proposal entitled "Pour une nouvelle classification des caracteres." Vox published his proposal in 1954, but also brought it to the Ecole de Lure, an annual meeting of typography professionals that first met in 1952. Vetted and disseminated by that group, Vox's proposal gained more prominence and served as the source for official classifications by the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) in 1961, four years after that group's founding. This international validation encouraged national organizations to align their standards with the ATypI system: the Deutsches Institut fur Normung of Germany did so in 1964, and the British Standards Institution followed in 1965. Although Vox's system has always had critics, in terms of reach, it was the most successful effort to systematize the classification of printing types to date.

Given the authoritativeness it gained, one might be surprised by the quirkiness of the labels Vox invented for many of his classes. This is the manner by which Vox sold his new labels:

The new classification begins with the vocabulary. It will consist of new words that will look like old words, syllables that evoke without direct translation. The names of the new categories will flatter the lips and the ear like the rhymes of Racine. Poetry is the mother tongue. Listen:
   Medieves, Humanes, Garaldes, Reales, Didones, Simplices, Mecanes,
   Incises, Manuaires, Scriptes!

   These are pretty words, aren't they? Empty inside like a new dress
   which, worn three times, takes on the same appearance and smell of
   life. Easy to transmit to all languages--thanks to their Latin
   roots--without losing their form and barely their sound.... But
   also, categories that are rational (but not abstract), historical
   (but not obsolete), popular (but not vulgar). (13)

Clearly, Vox appreciated that an important part of his task, beyond dividing type designs into classes, was conjuring appropriate and useful names for those classes. His interest in "evocative" labels will become key in my argument.

In his proposal, Vox named the four serifed roman text categories "Humanes," "Garaldes," "Reales," and "Didones." The first of these--humanes in Vox's pseudo-French, translated in some places as "Humanics" but more often as Humanist--refers to "the tradition of the first 'humanistic' romans of the fifteenth century," in his words. (14) The first humanes example he provides is the typeface that Nicolas Jenson used in his 1470 edition of Eusebius--the pioneering design which, we will recall, was the most admired early type that derived from Renaissance humanist script (fig. 2). The other examples he provides are twentieth-century types that resemble Jenson's archetypal typeface.

Besides citing Jenson and Jenson-like revivals, Vox is rather terse in his description of the category, defining it by its historical emergence rather than by an enumeration of its visual characteristics. For our purposes, it will be useful to have such a list of indicators of the humanes classification, and for that we can turn to the British Standards system, which was based on Vox's categories, but included descriptions that are more explicit. The British guide lists five properties that distinguish the humanist type:
   the cross stroke of the lowercase e is oblique;
   the axis of the curves is inclined to the left;
   there is no great contrast between thin and thick strokes;
   the serifs are bracketed; [and]
   the serifs of the ascenders in the lower case are oblique. (15)

All of these features are characteristic of humanist script except the inscription-derived bracketed serifs, and even those, Twomey argues, are approximated by later humanist scribes.

Two of Vox's other categories of serif text faces had quirky names derived from the names of printers who pioneered the styles. The label of the second text-font category, garalde, was a melding of "Garamont" and "Alde," taken from the names of sixteenth-century printers, Frenchman Claude Garamont and Italian Aide Manuce (in English, he is better known by his Latinized name, Aldus Manutius). The third text-font category's label, didone, conflated "Didot" and "Bodoni," respectively French and Italian master printers from around the turn of the nineteenth century. It seems curious, then, that for the category of types perhaps most clearly ascribable to a particular innovator, Nicolas Jenson, Vox avoided the printer's name and looked elsewhere for a label.


Vox's neologisms garalde and didone were clearly invented rather than discovered, and it appears that the same is true for humanes: humanist does not appear to have been a common label to distinguish Jensonian designs before Vox's classification emerged. How do we know what kind of labels were used in the printing world? While the written record may not offer a comprehensive reflection of the talk used in printing shops, documents like early type histories, printing handbooks, and specimens do provide some evidence of contemporary use of printing language.

I have already suggested that the "humanist hand" became a common term in the writing-historians' lexicon, but most early type historians were not inclined to call the types based thereon "humanist types." (16) The pioneering D. B. Updike, for example, recognized that "if we look at the best Humanistic manuscripts of the period, it is readily seen whence he [Jenson] derived his inspiration," but nowhere does Updike refer to Jenson's "roman" as humanist itself. (17) Likewise, A. F. Johnson acknowledges "humanistic" as an apt descriptor of the handwritten letters, but settles on "fifteenth-century roman" for the printed ones. (18) Thibaudeau declared that Jenson's letter should be classified as a "Romain Elzevir," and no cognate of humanist appears in the major type classifications he published in the early 1920s. (19) For her part, Warde's 1935 classification proposal proffers "Venetian group" as a label for Jenson-like designs, a term she says she takes from the practice of modern printers. (20)

When humanist was used to describe serifed type (rather than written scripts) before Vox's system achieved wide acceptance, it did not refer to Jensonian designs. This can be shown by looking at two examples of types called humanistic, from two different decades.

The earliest example I have found of a font being labeled humanistic comes from an experiment undertaken at the Cambridge University Press in the early years of the twentieth century (fig. 3). This was a type directly modeled on the writing in Italian Renaissance manuscripts. The face was named the Humanistic, and championed by such authorities on printing as publisher Charles Eliot Norton and librarian Guido Biagi. (21) The Humanistic design captured the pen-written quality of the fine productions of Renaissance scribes; it set aside the regularization into typographic forms that was Jenson's legacy and the hallmark of the genre of types that Vox would call humanes. Indeed, had the experimental typeface taken hold in the printing world--it apparently did not--and had it been around one-half a century later when Vox's scheme was assembled, the Humanistic type would no doubt have fallen not among the humanes but rather the manuaires--Vox's class of types emulating handwritten letters.

The same word, humanistic, was also used in the 1950s to describe a different type that, again, did not accord with Vox's humanes class. In 1958, after Vox's original proposal but before its wide dissemination, the word "humanistic" appears in Eric Gill: Master of Lettering, a special issue of the Monotype Recorder commemorating a London exhibition of the designer's work. In this text, Gill's Perpetua is discussed as Gill's "humanistic letter" (fig. 4). (22) Perpetua displays none of the markers of the humanes in Vox's categorization: the notable stress slant, the lower contrast, and the telltale sloped e crossbar. Clearly, humanist meant something different to the editor of the Monotype Recorder than it did to Maximilien Vox. Like the aforementioned earlier publications on type, this evidence demonstrates that Vox's use of the term was not a mere recording of prevailing terminology in the type world.


If humanist in Vox's scheme is not merely a codification of the prevailing terms used by the typography world, what is its origin? What spurred him to call these types humanist instead of, say, "Jensonesque"? Vox proclaimed the "evocative" character of his labels. What was he intending to evoke? To answer these questions, we can return to the history of the term humanism, particularly the uses of it leading up to and shaping the conceptualization of humanism that prevailed in Vox's day. We find two different kinds of uses of the term humanist. I contend that Vox meant to evoke both kinds with his label. In order to help keep track of what we will see is an increasingly complicated situation, I will give to the two kinds of uses of humanism the labels "historical humanism" and "philosophical humanism."

I will use historical humanism to refer to the kinds of uses we have already traced when looking at Renaissance scripts. By the nineteenth century, humanism had joined humanist in references to Renaissance scholarship or similar classical learning. Perhaps I should say "humanismus," for it was first and foremost in German-language texts that the term appeared. The towering study that launched modern historical scholarship of the Renaissance, Jacob Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy of 1860, used humanism to refer to the classical scholarship of the period. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Burckhardt's contemporary Georg Voigt published The Revival of Classical Antiquity; or, The First Century of Humanism, the mere title of which makes clear that this is humanism in its historical sense.

Meanwhile, the term humanism appeared in other contexts that I would call philosophical. This seems to be a case of coincidence rather than influence, for the philosophical humanism does not include the sense of classical learning that was key to the historical humanism. The philosophical uses of the term referred to ways of understanding the world, but were diverse. A nineteenth-century example of philosophical humanism includes its use to label the belief that Jesus was only human rather than also divine. (23) Another nineteenth-century use was by early Marxist writers to describe the outcome of communism's eventual delivery of humankind from the alienation of capitalism. (24)

Both of these kinds of nineteenth-century uses of humanism continued into and broadened in the twentieth century. The word's associations were manifold by the time Vox took it up. The development of historical humanism was naturally bound up with the emerging field of Renaissance studies beyond Burckhardt's work. In many early-twentieth-century histories of the Renaissance, we see a broadening of the term. One historian contributing to this broadening was Hans Baron, who coined "civic humanism" as the name for the republican values of Renaissance Italy, thus defining humanism as both a scholarly and a political phenomenon. (25) Another was Eugenio Garin, who stretched the word to cover much of Renaissance philosophy. In this period, humanism moves from a description of the scholarly interests of a select group of Florentine intellectuals to a synopsis of the revolutionary attitudes about humankind that marked the Renaissance as a whole and made it the beginning of the modern world in Europe. In its historical use, humanism becomes a label for what the German scholars of the day would call a Weltanschauung, an entire worldview. (26)

If historical humanism saw a significant growth in denotations in the twentieth century, philosophical humanism saw an exponential growth in what it was taken to mean. Humanism was claimed by twentieth-century philosophers of all schools. In his 1903 book on the subject, pragmatist F. C. S. Schiller asserted that "[h]umanism, like Common Sense, of which it may fairly claim to be the philosophic working out, takes Man for granted as he stands, and the world of man's experience as it has come to seem to him." (27) Irving Babbitt countered Schiller's pragmatism in his 1908 lecture "What Is Humanism?" (28) Moral education activist F. J. Gould called his 1923 autobiography The Life-Story of a Humanist (29) In 1930, American empiricist John Dewey weighed in with "What Humanism Means to Me." Just after the second World War, Jean-Paul Sartre argued that "Existentialism Is a Humanism," and Martin Heidegger argued against him. (30) While these philosophers argued over the meaning of humanism, journals and associations committed to secular rationalism often took on the name. These groups asserted the possibility and necessity of a nontheistic morality for the modern age. For example, in the United States, the New Humanist journal boldly published the "Humanist Manifesto" in 1933.

In some cases, these philosophical humanists saw the once distinct historical sense of humanism as a component of their project. For example, as a frontispiece to his 1949 book on Humanism as a Philosophy, Corliss Lamont diagrammed the "Background and Affiliations of the Humanist Philosophy" (fig. 5). In this figure, the multiple influences on "Contemporary Humanism" include not only predecessors from the field of philosophy, but also "Renaissance Humanism." Within the pages of his book, Lamont acknowledges that "Humanist first came into use ... to designate the writers and scholars of the European Renaissance," but asserts that although "contemporary Humanism includes the most enduring values of Renaissance Humanism, ... in philosophic scope and significance [it] goes far beyond it." His definition of present-day humanism--"a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity in this natural world and according to the methods of reason and democracy"--is generalized and elastic in seeking to encompass the multiple threads of ideas that were associated with the label. (31)

In 1954--the year of Vox's proposal--historian Paul Oskar Kristeller recorded this proliferation of humanisms of both the historical and philosophical kinds:
   The term "Humanism" has been associated with the Renaissance and
   its classical studies for more than a hundred years, but in recent
   times it has become the source of much philosophical and historical
   confusion. In present discourse, almost any kind of concern with
   human values is called "humanistic," and consequently a great
   variety of thinkers, religious or antireligious, scientific or
   antiscientific, lay claim to what has become a rather elusive label
   of praise. For many historians, knowing that the term "humanism"
   has been traditionally associated with the Renaissance, and seeing
   that some features of the modern notion of "humanism" seem to have
   their counterparts in the thought of that period, have cheerfully
   applied the term "humanism" in its vague modern meaning to the
   Renaissance and to other periods of the past, speaking of
   Renaissance humanism, medieval humanism, or Christian humanism, in
   a fashion which defies any definition and seems to have little or
   nothing left of the basic classicist meaning of Renaissance
   humanism. (32)

In Kristeller's complaint, we can see how the term was being extended far beyond its original historical signification, to a point at which the term refers not to classicism and the Renaissance, but to Christianity and the medieval world.

Indeed, although philosophical humanism in the early twentieth century was often secularist and even militantly so, Catholic thinkers of the period did advance an alternative understanding of humanism that was Christian and rooted in the medieval philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Prominent voices advocating this religious counter to secular humanism were G. K. Chesterton in England and Jacques Maritain in France. (33) Chesterton and Maritain argued that religion is an essential part of human culture, so that a humanism that was strictly secular was doomed to be partial or fragmented. As a sample of their thought, take what Chesterton wrote in 1933 of St. Francis and St. Thomas:
   These saints were, in the most exact sense of the term, Humanists;
   because they were insisting on the immense importance of the human
   being in the theological scheme of things. But they were not
   Humanists marching along a path of progress that leads to Modernism
   and general scepticism; for in their very Humanism they were
   affirming ... that staggering doctrine of Incarnation, which the
   sceptics find it hardest to believe. (34)

Maritain likewise counterposed what he called "integral humanism" to the familiar, secular "bourgeois" variety, as in his 1936 book of that title. (35)

With all of these varying and even contradictory meanings of humanism in play by mid-century, which might have Vox intended to "evoke" with his label? Of course, Vox had in mind the historical humanism of Renaissance classicism--Jenson's book productions were part of that very tradition. I propose that humanes appealed to Vox because it also evoked humanism in the philosophical sense. I believe that the Christian understanding of humanism might have had particular appeal for Vox. While it does not seem that the Catholic sense of humanism was generally held at the time, there is evidence that Vox engaged with this concept directly. In 1926, Vox officially converted to Catholicism, and one of his sponsors was none other than Jacques Maritain, who would later write Integral Humanism. Moreover, soon thereafter, he began to translate into French various books by Chesterton, including the book on St. Thomas Aquinas excerpted above. (36) These commitments to and engagements with the thoughts of these Christian humanists shaped Vox's idea of humanity and, I would venture, drew him towards humanes as the term with the richest evocations that might be used in his system of type classification.


Nowadays, one might hear the type term humanist with reference to Jenson-like serifed types, but it is more likely to be used in the phrase "humanist sans serif." When did the invention of the humanist sans label happen? It was not proposed in Vox's 1954 scheme, but it had appeared by 1967. In that year, the British Standards Institution circulated a pamphlet entitled Typeface Nomenclature and Classification. As I have mentioned, the British Standards were clearly based on Vox's scheme, but Vox's lineale category was further broken down into grotesque, neo-grotesque, geometric, and humanist. The guidebook provided example typefaces for each category. The examples help explain why subdividing Vox's category had become more pressing: a majority of the twelve lineale typefaces cited were new or had been newly reissued since the mid-1950s. (37) By this point, the lineales were an increasingly crowded field that needed finer distinction. I will argue that the subdivision of lineale types around the 1960s not only made an increasingly crowded class more manageable, but also codified rhetorical distinctions that had been advanced earlier about Gill Sans and Optima.

First of all, it is important to consider how the humanist sans serif was defined, for therein lay an inconsistency. The description of the humanist lineale subcategory in the British Standards pamphlet was summarized in this manner:
   Lineale typefaces based on the proportions of inscriptional Roman
   capitals and Humanist or Garalde lower-case, rather than on early
   grotesques. They have some stroke contrast, with two-storey a and
   g. (38)

The pamphlet offered three "humanist lineale" examples: Gill Sans, Optima, and Pascal. (39)

The fact that the purported exemplar Pascal actually has a one-story g betrays the imprecision of these standards--but more germane to our question is why this classification was called humanist. The key phrase explaining why humanist lineales are classified as humanist in the British Standards description is the assertion that they are based on "Humanist or Garalde lower-case." We need to redirect our attention to how the British Standards define humanist serifed types and compare that to the description of garaldes. If we remove the descriptions of characteristics that are identical for these two classes, we are left with two distinctions. First, the cross stroke of the lowercase e is oblique in the humanist font and horizontal in the garalde font; and second, the contrast between thins and thicks of the garalde is greater. (40) How do these distinctions match up with humanist lineale exemplars Gill Sans, Optima, and Pascal? All three of these typefaces have an e with a horizontal crossbar, as we find in garaldes. Additionally, all three demonstrate greater thick/thin contrast than types in the other lineale categories, again more akin to garaldes. In other words, judging by the characteristics of the letterforms, there is nothing particularly humanist about these humanist lineales; it would seem more logical to label this category "garalde lineales." (41) Of course, we know that history has not submitted to that logic, and it is not garalde sans but, instead, humanist sans as a designation that is widely circulated today.

If Vox's categorization scheme was so welcome and useful in the type industry, why is it that his careful delineation of what humanist meant in letterforms was set aside when it came to sans types? In other words, why do we call humanist sans types humanist when they bear no particular relationship to humanist serifed types? A closer examination of the two type designs most frequently labeled humanist sans, Gill Sans and Optima, will shed light on that question.


It is broadly accepted today that the humanist sans serif was born in the early twentieth century with the work of Edward Johnston and Eric Gill. The renowned letterer and Arts and Crafts champion Johnston invented a sans-serif design in 1916 for the printing and signage of the London Underground railroad. That alphabet was a major inspiration for one of Johnston's students, the stone carver and printer Eric Gill, who produced sans-serif letters for the signage in his friend's bookstore. (42) With the encouragement of Stanley Morison, the Gill Sans type was released by the British Monotype Corporation beginning in 1928, and went on to become one of the most successful type designs of the century, particularly although not exclusively in Britain (fig. 6). Gill Sans certainly came to be recognized as a (if not the) humanist sans font. In the early 1980s, for example, when people at the corporation Bitstream developed a digital version of the font and needed an untrademarked name for it, they settled on "Humanist 521." Surprisingly, though, Gill Sans was not called humanist in Gill's lifetime. I mentioned earlier the 1958 Monotype Recorder article that referred to Gill's "humanistic letter"; recall that it was referring to his Perpetua, expressly not his Sans. (43) Understanding how the label humanist came to be associated with Gill Sans requires investigating how that type was distinct, both in its forms and in the rhetoric surrounding it, from rival twentieth-century sansserif inventions.

The decade of the debut of Gill Sans, the 1920s, also saw new sans-serif designs come out of Germany that would eventually be labeled geometric sans serifs. Paul Renner's Futura was the most successful of these (fig. 7), but its contemporaries Erbar and Kabel gave the collective impression of a German geometric movement. Indeed, it was the label geometric that eventually found broad use to classify this new style of letterforms (for example, as mentioned previously, in the British Standards classification).

Both Gill Sans and Futura offer sans-serif designs that depart from the so-called grotesque model that had constituted sans-serif type for a century, but they headed in different directions as a closer examination shows. In contrast to Futura, Gill Sans has shapes that imply writing more strongly. Futuras lowercase b, for example, seems like a ball and a stick compared to the noncircular sweep of Gill's bowl. Consider the lowercase u: in the geometric letter, we have a monowidth line that heads down, circles around a constant radius, and returns to the top. Gill's u has a small tail to the stem. This seemingly small detail is significant because it implies that the letter, unlike its Futura counterpart, was constructed with two strokes in the manner of old scripts. Gill's two-story lowercase a and g also distinguish it as more traditional than Futura. Both types seem to be quite even in thin/thick contrast--but close examination of letters such as Gill Sans's lowercase a and e shows that his type departs more freely from even stroke widths. Diagonal terminals appear in Gill Sans details that hint at the strokes of a broad-nibbed pen: see the tail of capital Q and details on lowercase a, r, and t. One might not want to venture that these suggestions of pen-written forms hint at the letters written by humanist scribes, but it does seem fair to say that they hint at written letters more generally.

Futura's character was intentionally and clearly modernist. Proponents celebrated the clarity and universality of these modernist letterforms built upon mechanistically even strokes and basic mathematical shapes. The affinity with contemporary modernist art, architecture, and design is clear. Following its release, Futura quickly rose to international prominence. (44) It even inspired knock-off fonts in several countries. (45) Its association with modernism was effectively underscored by the Bauer foundry's promotion of it as "the typeface of our times." (46) This, of course, echoed Jan Tschichold's description of sans-serif types in Die Neue Typographic, which was a key document of modernism in typography. (47)

In actual practice, it should be noted, modernist typographers--both the earlier ones following in the wake of Tschichold and those at mid-century involved with the Swiss graphic design movement--often clung to the older, grotesque style of types that had inspired Tschichold's praise. (48) Likely spurred by the modernist typographers' persistent interest in these types, foundries in the late 1950s revised that style into two new typefaces, both of which earned widespread use from their release to the present. In 1957, the Haas foundry produced Neue Haas Grotesk, a cleaned up version of nineteenth-century sans-serif faces like Akzidenz Grotesk. It was soon renamed Helvetica. Its contemporaneous rival, Adrian Frutiger's Univers, was produced by Deberny and Peignot. These two typefaces, which would come to be known as neo-grotesques, played a role in modernist typography but did not entirely supplant the older grotesques.

Although much closer in form to the nineteenth-century grotesque letterforms than Futura was, Helvetica and Univers presented refinements that headed in that same modernist direction of simple geometry and rational construction, such as the consistent termination of curved strokes (for example, c, e, and s) in strict horizontals.

Modernism was an influential idea in twentieth-century typography, but of course, it had its detractors. Significantly, many criticized the modernist ideas coming from German and Swiss proponents as inhuman. The opinion about European modernist typography as inhuman may have found its most amusing expression in a 1939 essay by American type designer W. A. Dwiggins, writing as his German alter ego, Hermann Puterschein. Puterschein, a parody of strident modernists, decries Dwiggins's conservatism and explains modernism:
   His "style" missed the real essence of the true contemporary
   feeling. And what may that essence be?

   Modern aesthetic design is a repudiation of the human animal in
   toto. It denies that anything is shaped by human hands--that
   anything possibly could be shaped by human hands. Its very
   life-source is a strenuous and perpetual denial of the fact that
   any such soft mammals are alive on the earth. Its life is a life of
   metal; hard, square-edged, unyielding. It turns away in disgust
   from the suggestion that any material object could grow, or be
   punctured, or eat, or bleed, or digest. (49)

Here we have, in parodic form, a direct expression of the opposition seen between typographical modernism and humanity.

Returning to Gill Sans, and particularly to the way that its champions described it, we may notice the praise for how the typeface is not such a "repudiation of the human animal." William Holman, for example, appreciated that Gill Sans "brought a warmth of grace and feeling to the rather cold industrial faces coming largely from the German type foundries." (50) Robert Harling, writing in 1948, commented that "[a] comparison of designs by Johnston, Erbar, Renner and Gill shows that Gill's is a more rational letter-form, set apart from the dehumanized, compasses-and-setsquare precision of the others." (51) The "t-square and compass" trope was used frequently in this period to dismiss the novel German designs based on the geometry underlying their construction. The other adjectives employed in these distinctions between Gill's type and those of the Germans are revealing: the geometric sans serifs are "unfeeling," "cold," "irrational," and "dehumanized."

I think that humanist stuck with Gill Sans because it suggested this opposition to the ostensibly dehumanized modernist sans. Humanist was regarded as fitting not because it was technically precise, but because it suggested a human hand writing the letters and a human mind conceiving of them, and there is moralizing behind much of this rhetoric. (It may be that Gill himself--like Vox, a Catholic convert--set the stage for this in the many preachy books he authored.) Consider again the Monotype Recorder article from 1958:
   One only has to compare the cap G with the Germanic forms that
   shoot out their lower jaws, to see what is gained by sober
   adherence to classic forms. As a free Present to the Enemy, Gill
   Sans shows not the slightest sign of tongue-in-the-cheek; on the
   contrary it is a chivalrous suggestion, from a conscientious
   master, of ways in which that sort of thing can be done without
   looking ridiculous. (52)

Here, Gill is portrayed as an adherent of classicism--a humanist in its original, literary sense--but also as a civilized, virtuous, and reasonable person--a humanist in the looser, philosophical senses--in both ways contrary to the enemy Germans. Need it be said that the adjective humanist bears all of these associations in a way that "garalde" would not? Gill Sans was a modern sans-serif design that was distinct from the modernist typographic world, and the rhetoric against modernism suggested humanist as an apt name to record that distinction.


Another influential new typeface arrived in the late 1950s alongside Helvetica and Univers that further problematized the single lineales category of Vox's original classification system. This was Optima, designed by Hermann Zapf (fig. 8). As with Gill Sans, the rhetoric surrounding Optima helps to account for the invention of the humanist sans-serif label.

Optima was inspired by fifteenth-century majuscule inscriptions in a Florentine church. Soon after Optima's 1958 release, Zapf recounted the inspirational moment:
   Visiting Italy in 1950, I brought along some sketches of alphabets
   I had drawn after inscriptions on the Arch of Constantine (315
   A.D.) and on gravestones in the Santa Croce in Florence: unserifed
   letters that delighted me by their simple, vigorous forms. Several
   of these letters of inlaid marble, dating from the Quattrocento and
   largely unregarded by visitors in the Santa Croce, set me to
   thinking that their austere forms might through deeper study emerge
   as a useful printing type. (53)

(In later retellings, this legendary scene was amended to portray Zapf in Santa Croce, inspired but lacking a notebook, taking notes on the letterforms on the only paper he had--a bill of Italian currency. In fact, the one-thousand-lira note with Zapf's preliminary drawings is still extant.) Nicolete Gray called these quattrocento letters an experiment in "sans serif" letterforms. (54) While the Italian inscribed letters do not include serifs, their strokes also do not match the typical sans-serif designs of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century types in one important respect: their strokes gradually flare to thicker terminals. This flaring feature was adopted by Zapf in Optima. (55)

Although these Italian Renaissance letters were roughly contemporary with the manuscripts of the humanist scribes, their forms do not resemble those written letters markedly. That is even more true of Optima's forms: although they would come to be labeled humanist, they bear no particular connection to humanist serifed type, or to historical humanist script (figs. 2 and 8). (56) Some details do find analogy in Jenson's type: the even, round hood of a, the thinning at the fold off's hood, or the proportions of r. The capital letters as a whole adopt the proportions of Jensonian types. In more numerous ways, however, Optima differs from Jenson. The roundness of c, e, m, and n is a rationalized detail quite different from the Venetian model. The simplification of g's lower bowl, the centering of i's dot, and the evening of proportions of the two bowls in B also mark Optima as a more "rationalized" design. Another big difference can be seen in the shapes of the counters (interior white spaces) of letters like p and q. Zapf's counters are elliptical whereas Jenson's have a vertical contour on the stem side. These details reinforce the idea that Optima's classification under the humanist label did not derive from its similarity to humanist serifed type.

Although its association with humanist serif types might not be convincing, Optima certainly differed from the sans-serif faces we have seen that were embraced by modernist typography at mid-century. Thus, it seemed pressing for Zapf and the Stempel foundry to clarify that his new design was distinct from the typical lineales to date. Their ploy to underscore this distinction was to call Optima a "serifless Roman" and explicitly not a grotesque. (57) The key concept there was the word "roman" that connected Optima directly to serifed text faces that were called by that name. "Roman" also contributed a hint of the location and history behind Optima's birth, although of course strictly speaking "Roman/Florentine" would be a more precise adjective. Although this serifless roman appellation has been taken up by some later writers, its function to distinguish Optima from other sans-serif designs was largely taken over by the newly created humanist sansserif label. (58)

I conclude that, in different ways, the multivalent term humanist functioned to distinguish types like Gill Sans and Optima from the sans-serif types associated with modernism in the twentieth century. Neither Gill's nor Zapf's designs were humanist in the strict sense of the word as applied to serifed types. Instead, it was the looser connotations of the word humanist that seemed fitting. Revisiting our earlier distinction, we might say that Gill's type design was portrayed as humanist in the philosophical sense: humane and reasonable. Zapf's design was put forth as humanist in the historical sense, although loosely: it was rooted in the Italian Renaissance. The elasticity of the term humanist allowed for these two types with differing origins, aims, and forms to be allied against the modernist sans-serif types.


In summary, when Maximilien Vox invented the term humanes to name a class of type, he chose a term that pointed specifically to Jenson's archetypal letterforms, but also evoked values and philosophies that held strong interest for the contemporary culture generally but also to the Catholic Vox himself. When humanist sans serif acquired currency as a label, although it contradicted the technical description of what made Vox's serif font humanist, it effectively reinforced the broader evocations that Vox intended.

Neither Vox's system, nor any that has been advanced to take its place, is perfect. A set of labels that would provide rational and consistent classification of type designs once and for all is, of course, impossible; even some of the most enthusiastic supporters of particular classification schemes will often concede as much. These flawed lexicons and systems have nevertheless served the printing world well by facilitating communication and education. In a less intentional but perhaps equally useful way, they also record the values of the cultures and eras that produced them, as can be seen by tracing the terms they borrow from that broader culture.

Craig Eliason has a doctoral degree in art history from Rutgers University, concentrating on European avant-garde art and theory between the World Wars. His recent research has focused on the history of type design, and particularly on the classification of types and associated nomenclature. He also founded Teeline Fonts, an award-winning type foundry. He is an associate professor of art history at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

(1.) Augusto Campana, "The Origin of the Word 'Humanist,'" Journal of the Warburg and CourtauldInstitutes 9 (1946): 8.

(2.) Ibid.

(3.) Martin Davies, "Humanism in Script and Print in the Fifteenth Century," in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 47.

(4.) In 1954, Battelli offered a survey of the use of the term humanist to describe script. An early citation is Bretholz's 1926 use of "Renaissance-oder Humanistenschrift." Battelli notes that "umanistica" was almost always used in Italian, and outside of Italy, it has been used by "Prou, Steffens, Villada, Millares and, in more recent studies, by Ullman (1932), Hessel (1933), Morison (1943) and Thomas (1951)." M. G. Battelli, "Nomenclature des ecritures humanistiques," in Nomenclature des ecritures livresques du ixe au xvie siecle, Colloques internationaux du centre national de la recherche scientifique (Paris: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1954), 36.

(5.) James Wardrop, The Script of Humanism: Some Aspects of Humanist Script, 1460-1560 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 4. "When the first humanists, intent on the reduplication of the new-found texts of the classics, chose as the vehicle of their transcription the carolingian minuscule in which those texts were written, the humanists made that choice not so much because the carolingian minuscule was beautiful, as because it was old.... Just how old the humanists judged the carolingian minuscule to be is another question. It is scarcely to be supposed that Niccolo Niccoli or Poggio Bracciolini believed the St. Gall manuscripts to have been written by the contemporaries of Cicero; but at any rate those lay closest to the classical world whose spirit they were so zealously bent on resurrecting, and the script was for that reason venerable and good. It was also in the highest degree appropriate."

(6.) Davies, "Humanism in Script and Print," 48.

(7.) Juliet Spohn Twomey calls this occurrence "the second phase of the development of the humanist hand," and James Wardrop similarly attributes it to the flourishing interest in inscriptions at the end of the fifteenth century. Juliet Spohn Twomey, "Whence Jenson: A Search for the Origins of Roman Type," Fine Print 15 (1989): 137; and Wardrop, Script of Humanism, 8, 13-14. B. L. Ullman argues that the interest in inscriptional majuscules had appeared already in the writing of the "inventor" of humanist script, Poggio Bracciolini, between 1403 and 1408. B. L. Ullman, The Origin and Development of Humanistic Script (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1960), 54-57.

(8.) Davies, "Humanism in Script and Print," 53.

(9.) A. F. Johnson, Type Designs: Their History and Development (London: Grafton, 1959), 38. Stanley Morison offers a roll call: "[i]n the considered opinion of contemporary connoisseurs such as Emery Walker, Cobden-Sanderson and Newdigate, as well as of [Bruce] Rogers himself and [William] Morris before them all, the roman used by Nicolaus Jenson for his Eusebius of 1470 is the most beautiful of all the letters of the fifteenth century." Stanley Morison, A Tally of Types (Boston: David R. Godine, 1999), 41.

(10.) Vox's original proposal had ten parts, the first of which was "Medieves." This was subsequently folded into the "Manuaires" group so that the scheme was reduced to nine parts, but when the Association Typographique Internationale adopted the plan in 1962, this tenth group (now appended at the end of the list) was restored.

(11.) Beatrice Warde, "Type Faces, Old and New," Library 16, no. 2 (1935): 124.

(12.) Francis Thibaudeau, La lettre d'imprimerie: Origine, developpement, classification & 12 notices illustrees sur les arts du livre (Paris: Bureau de l'edition, 1921).

(13.) Maximilien Vox, "La classification 'Vox,' un projet franpais de nomenclature des caracteres typographiques," Typographische Monatsblatter 73, no. 12 (1954): 677.

(14.) Ibid. Kenneth Day presents "Humanics" as a preferable translation, stating outright that "the suggested 'translation' of the terms into English equivalents adds to the unfamiliar look, but it is better to avoid existing words." Kenneth Day, The Typography of Press Advertisement: A Practical Summary of Principles and Their Application (London: E. Benn, 1956), 45.

(15.) Typeface Nomenclature and Classification (London: British Standards Institution, 1967), 38.

(16.) One exception to this can be found in Stanley Morison's 1943 article, "Early Humanistic Script and the First Roman Type." Its title exemplifies the practice of calling the script "humanistic" but the type "roman," although the text of the article does call an early type, the aforementioned Subiaco font of Sweynheym and Pannartz, "authentically humanistic," and cites Franz Steffens's Lateinische Palaographie (1907-9) as a trustworthy precedent for that label. Morison concludes that the terms "humanistic" and "roman" are equally valid and interchangeable for such types. Stanley Morison, "Early Humanistic Script and the First Roman Type," in Selected Essays on the History of Letter-Forms in Manuscript and Print, ed. David McKitterick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 218-19.

(17.) Daniel Berkeley Updike, Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), 1:73.

(18.) Johnson, Type Designs, 37.

(19.) Thibaudeau, Lettre d'imprimerie, 471. "Elzevir" was the family name of celebrated Dutch printers active in the seventeenth century.

(20.) Warde, "Type Faces, Old and New," 140. The Vox-based DIN 16518 standard labeled this category "Venezianische Renaissance-Antiqua."

(21.) Charles Eliot Norton, "The New Humanistic Type," Printing Art 6, no. 5 (1906): 273-83; and Stanley Morison, "Towards an Ideal Type," Fleuron 2 (1924): 72.

(22.) An Exhibition of the Work of Eric Gill, Master of Lettering, Held at Monotype House, London, October 14th, 1958 (London: Monotype Corporation, 1958), 14.

(23.) Vito Giustiniani, "Homo, Humanus, and the Meanings of 'Humanism,'" Journal of the History of Ideas 46, no. 2 (1985): 1731133.

(24.) Ibid., 175-76.

(25.) Riccardo Fubini, "Renaissance Historian: The Career of Hans Baron," Journal of Modern History 64, no. 3 (1992): 542. In Fubini's assessment, "Baron's 'theses' were not meant to deal with Florentine humanism in a narrow sense, but with the roots and essence of humanism tout court.... But we also need to remember what underlies this effort: a search for the origins of the positive values of modern European civilization--in the tradition of Burckhardt and Dilthey--rather than merely an interpretation of Italian history. For Baron, these values are founded on 'Florentine civic humanism.'"

(26.) Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Moral Thought of Renaissance Humanism," in Renaissance Thought and the Arts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), 24. In 1961, Kristeller observed that "recently, the tendency has been to shift emphasis from the scholarly and literary achievements of the humanists and to define the movement in terms of certain ideas or ideals." He proposed that "the modern undertones of the word may ... have played their part in the process." He cites Konrad Burdach, Giuseppe Toffanin, and Douglas Bush on religious ideas of humanism; Hans Baron on republican politics; and Eugenio Garin on philosophical thought of the Renaissance more broadly.

(27.) F. C. S. Schiller, Humanism: Philosophical Essays (London: Macmillan, 1903), xvii.

(28.) Irving Babbitt, "What Is Humanism?," in Literature and the American College: Essays in Defense of the Humanities (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1908); and Russell Kirk, "The Conservative Humanism of Irving Babbitt," Prairie Schooner 26, no. 3 (1952): 245-55.

(29.) Frederick James Gould, The Life-Story of a Humanist (London: Watts, 1923); and Robert Berard, "Frederick James Gould and the Transformation of Moral Education," British Journal of Educational Studies 35, no. 3 (1987): 233-47.

(30.) Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism, trans. Carol Macomber (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007); and Martin Heidegger, "Letter on 'Humanism,'" in The Continental Ethics Reader, ed. Matthew Calarco and Peter Atterton (New York: Routledge, 2003). Sartre's 1945 lecture was published in 1946, the same year that Heidegger's essay first appeared.

(31.) Corliss Lamont, Humanism as a Philosophy (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949), 18.

(32.) Paul Oskar Kristeller, "The Humanist Movement," in Renaissance Thought: The Classic, Scholastic, and Humanistic Strains (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961), 8.

(33.) Other key figures included Paul Elmer More, Christopher Dawson, and T. S. Eliot.

(34.) G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1933), 13.

(35.) Jacques Maritain, The Range of Reason (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), 194. Humanisme integral was translated as Integral Humanism (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996). Maritain later wrote that "[a]fter the great disillusionment of 'anthropocentric humanism' and the atrocious experience of the anti-humanism of our day, what the world needs is a new humanism, a 'theocentric' or integral humanism which would consider man in all his natural grandeur and weakness, in the entirety of his wounded being inhabited by God, in the full reality of nature, sin and sainthood."

(36.) Maximilien Vox, Dossier Vox (Andenne, Belgium: R. Magermans, 1975), 1-2.

(37.) They were Condensed Sans No. 7 and Monotype Headline Bold (grotesque); Univers and Helvetica (neo-grotesque); Eurostyle (geometric); and Optima and Pascal (humanist).

(38.) Typeface Nomenclature and Classification, 11.

(39.) For comparison, Alexander Lawson's Anatomy of a Typeface mentions Optima, Stellar, Offenbach, Lydian, and an unfinished Dwiggins font in his "humanist" chapter. Bitstream equivalents that were named "humanist" were Gill Sans, Syntax, Frutiger, Adsans, and Optima. Lewis Blackwell's more recent 20th-Century Type cites Gill Sans, Optima, Goudy Sans, and Rotis Sans as examples.

(40.) Typeface Nomenclature and Classification, 10. Both are described as having a left-leaning axis to the curves, bracketed serifs, and oblique lowercase ascender serifs.

(41.) Together, garalde and humanist faces constitute the "old style" category of serifed type, and another logical alternative would be to use that modifier for these kinds of sans types. This is almost the solution at which David Gates arrived when he divided sans serifs into "sans serifold style proportions" and "sans serif-even width proportions." David Gates, Type (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1973).

(42.) An Exhibition of the Work of Eric Gill, 8-15.

(43.) This article referred to the sans typeface as "his mechanistic letter."

(44.) "Among graphic designers in America, these typefaces found immediate interest and application. For example, magazine pages of Vanity Fair in the 1930s, designed by Dr. M. F. Agha and his staff, uniformly used Futura types." R. Roger Remington, American Modernism: Graphic Design, 1920 to 1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 39.

(45.) A measure of Futura's popularity might be read in Monotype Corporation's eventual offering of alternate sorts for Gill Sans that converted its more "humanist" letters to Futura-like geometric forms.

(46.) Futura is announced as "die Schrift unserer Zeit" in, for example, the 1927 specimen reproduced as figure 78 of Christopher J. Burke's Paul Renner: The Art of Typography (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), 109.

(47.) Jan Tschichold, The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers, trans. Ruari McLean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 73. "Among all the types that are available, the so-called 'Grotesque' (sanserif) or 'block letter' ('skeleton letters' would be a better name) is the only one in spiritual accordance with our time."

(48.) Richard Hollis, Swiss Graphic Design: The Origins and Growth of an International Style, 1920-1965 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 44, 201; and Christopher Burke, Active Literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography (London: Hyphen, 2007), 149-50. Tschichold declared the grotesque style as the "elemental" typeface, praising it for corresponding "to the spare, straightforward attitude that is required of today's forms." Tschichold was speaking to the Zurich branch of the Swiss Werkbund in 1929 and reported in the January 1930 issue of Das Werk cited by Hollis. Hollis observed that "it remains curious that the Modernists (Schwitters was an exception), particularly when many of them were drawing geometric letters, were not more inclined to the geometrical sansserif typefaces, such as Erbar and Futura, which came onto the market before the end of the 1930s." At mid-century, the modernists on the Swiss graphic design scene utilized grotesque fonts heavily: Akzidenz Grotesk for larger settings, such as posters and headings, and Monotype Grotesque for smaller settings, since it could be produced by the Monotype casters.

(49.) W. A. Dwiggins, Caledonia: A New Printing Type (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1939), xix. Although better known for his serifed typeface designs Electra and Caledonia, it should be noted that Dwiggins began his type-design career with the Metro series, a quirkier take on current modernist sans serifs like Futura.

(50.) William R. Holman, "Eric Gill, Master of Letter Forms," Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin 2 (1970): 25.

(51.) Robert Harling, The Letter Forms and Type Designs of Eric Gill (Boston: David R. Godine, :977), 58; and Robert Harling, "Makers of Alphabets," Alphabet and Image 1 (1946): 74. In his 1946 obituary for Gill, Harling asserted that "[i]n Europe . . . [Gill's designs] were sound propagators of a basic anglican sanity, for, against the spate of teutonic novelties, his designs were traditional, reasonable and yet novel."

(52.) An Exhibition of the Work of Eric Gill, 8.

(53.) Hermann Zapf, About Alphabets: Some Marginal Notes on Type Design (New York: Typophiles, 1960), 40-41.

(54.) Nicolete Gray, "Sans Serif and Other Experimental Inscribed Lettering of the Early Renaissance," Motif 5 (1960): 66-76.

(55.) Interestingly, Zapf noted that this strengthening of terminals was also motivated by his observation that metal types of conventional sans-serif design tended to become rounded at the corners through the wear of printing. He reasoned that exaggerated terminals would retain their sharpness longer. Zapf, About Alphabets, 44-45. Thus, while the tapered strokes of Optima are usually seen as a consequence of Zapf's encounter with letters long ago carved in stone, they are also a solution to a problem he saw in contemporary printing with metal types.

(56.) As noted above, the British Standards classification named Optima as a humanist lineale. The story of the Italian inspiration for Optima, well known in the printing world, along with its tapering strokes that called to mind both quattrocento and much earlier inscriptions, would seem to suggest its fitness among the class Vox named incises. Incises, translated as "glyphic" types in the British Standards scheme, were there defined as "typefaces which are chiselled [sic] rather than calligraphic in form." Typeface Nomenclature and Classification, 11. The tapered strokes that broaden at the terminals approximate the flared serifs of Berthold Wolpe's Albertus, a font from the 1930s that exemplifies Vox's incises category.

(57.) Zapf, About Alphabets, 44.

(58.) Sebastian Carter, Twentieth Century Type Designers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 150.

Caption: Figure 1. Nicolas Jenson's type for De Evangelica Praeperatione (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1470) by Eusebius Caesariensis. Photograph by Eben Sorkin.

Caption: Figure 2. Detail of Jenson's type for De Evangelica Praeperatione (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1470) by Eusebius Caesariensis. Photograph by Eben Sorkin.

Caption: Figure 3. An illustration entitled "A Full Page of Humanistic Type" in "The New Humanistic Type" by Charles Eliot Norton (Printing Art 6, no. 5 [1906]: 281). Courtesy of the James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota.

Caption: Figure 4. The Perpetua typeface originally designed by Eric Gill for the Monotype Corporation as it appeared in the Type Specimen Book Supplement to Linotype Faces and Display Faces (Bloomsburg, Pa.: Haddon Craftsmen, 1964). Courtesy of James Puckett.

Caption: Figure 5. The diagram entitled "Background and Affiliations of the Humanist Philosophy" that served as the frontispiece to Humanism as a Philosophy (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949) by Corliss Lamont.

Caption: Figure 6. The Gill Sans typeface designed by Eric Gill for the Monotype Corporation as it appeared in An Atlas of Typeforms (London: Lund Humphries, 1968) by James Sutton and Alan Bartram.

Caption: Figure 7. The Futura typeface designed by Paul Renner for the Bauer Type Foundry as it appeared in An Atlas of Typeforms (London: Lund Humphries, 1968) by James Sutton and Alan Bartram.

Caption: Figure 8. The Optima typeface designed by Hermann Zapf for the D. Stempel Foundry as it appeared in ABC's of Type (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1990) by Allan Haley.
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