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Notes and Queries.

Paul Shaw's response to Jerry Kelly's review of Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past (2017) in Printing History 23 (Winter 2018).

Jerry Kelly's review of my book Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past, does not provide an accurate account of my intent and the breadth of my study. My introduction establishes the book's premise as "an overview of the various ways in which lettering and typefaces from the past have provided inspiration for contemporary type designers." I further state that
   The notion of a type revival is more complex than it
   seems at first glance. The digital type "revivals" that
   exist today go beyond the straightforward idea of taking
   a typeface from the pre-digital past and converting
   it into pixels ... Some designs are not revivals of
   typefaces per se but of letterforms, from inscriptions to
   calligraphic manuals to lettering in posters, bookjackets
   and other ephemera. Some revivals are aesthetic extensions
   or reimaginings of twentieth-century typefaces
   occasioned by the need to update them technically.
   And others are actually reinterpretations or variations
   of typefaces from the past necessitated by having to
   make types that function in the twenty-first century.


Thus the book, aimed at graphic designers rather than type historians, reflects the current landscape of type design, not that of the era of Daniel Berkeley Updike and Stanley Morison. Kelly writes, "many of the seventy-nine sections ... are not type revivals at all. Quite a few are questionable. Are the somewhat generic modern era sans serif typefaces Venus (1907), DIN 1451 (1936), and Highway Gothic (1949) too close to our own time to be considered revival types?" Why is that? Is there some rule that revivals can only be made of typefaces originally created before 1900 or some other arbitrary date? And are there rules against reviving "generic" typefaces or sans serifs?

Kelly claims that digital versions of typefaces cannot be considered as revivals, that they are nothing more than reformattings. Furthermore, he asserts--wrongly, in my view--that Futura, Palatino, Eurostile, Syntax, Gill Sans, Metro, and others are "completely original designs and can in no way be considered revivals of earlier typeface designs." My book is not about the original metal typefaces but about digital revisions of them that go beyond mere technical updating to include redrawn, additional, or alternate characters, as well as extended or reconfigured families. For instance, Palatino Nova (2005) is not only significantly different from the original Stempel version released in 1948 (and from the subsequent versions made for Linotype composition and photocomposition), but it also incorporates the formerly independent designs Michelangelo, Phidias, and Sistina.

"But by definition, type revivals are revivals of type, not calligraphy or lettering," Kelly declares. "Some typeface designs derive from type and some are based on lettering or other sources, but obviously all type revivals are revivals of type. Through his misuse of the term 'type revivals,' Shaw includes three of his own typefaces (designed with Garrett Boge): Donatello, Beata, and Ghiberti, all of which are copies of Renaissance lettering and have no basis in type." In his definition of "type revival" Kelly puts the stress on "type" as the object of revival, while in my book I put the stress on "revival" as the action that has been taken. The decision to include typefaces derived from lettering in Revival Types was not done to showcase my typefaces, but to include highly praised and, in some cases, highly popular digital types such as Adobe Trajan, Mantinia, Requiem, Bickham Script, and Burgues Script. It should be pointed out that Daniel Berkeley Updike, in Printing Types: Their History, Forms, and Use--A Study in Survivals, included Humanistic (1904), a typeface by William Dana Orcutt based on the calligraphy of the Renaissance scribe Antonio Sinibaldi, in his survey of type revivals.

Type Revivals makes a crucial point about the emergence of the profession of type designer in the 1890s. By describing punches and matrices as type designs Kelly ignores the enormous difference between the practice of creating type by sculpting it in steel and the practice of drawing letters on paper for someone else to copy as a handcut punch or a pantographically-engraved matrix. He implies there is no distinction between someone like Robert Granjon and someone like Morris Fuller Benton.

Kelly has reviewed the book he wishes had been written and not the book that has been written. What he wants is a book-length version of a pamphlet he wrote seven years ago: Type Revivals: What are they? Where did they come from? Where are they going? He thus spends time chastising me for not discussing Poliphilus, Bembo, Centaur (which he debatably declares to be "the best revival of Jenson to date"), Barbou, the history of Bodoni's evolution as a punchcutter, and other topics that are beyond the scope of my book and the space available to me. Revival Type is not about the original metal designs of certain typefaces, but about their digital incarnations. Nowhere does Kelly mention that Revival Type transcends the usual roll call of Stanley Morison-initiated revivals to include new versions of important historical designs by Pierre Haultin, Hendrik van den Keere, Eudald Pradell, Joseph Vibert, Richard Austin, Vincent Figgins, Edwin Allen, William Page, and others. Finally, he ignores Abby Goldstein's vibrant design of Revival Type, which is not only as integral to the purpose of the book as my text, but sets it apart from academic histories of type design.

Paul Shaw is a designer and design historian. He has taught calligraphy, typography, book design, the history of graphic design, and the history of type at several New York area design schools since 1980. He has also taught the history of type for CalRBS. Paul is the author of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System (2009), the co-author of Blackletter: Type and National Identity (1999), and the editor of The Eternal Letter (2014). He was the editor of Codex2 and 3 and has written for Print, Eye, Baseline, Letter Arts Review, and other magazines.
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Title Annotation:Revival Type: Digital Typefaces
Author:Shaw, Paul
Publication:Printing History
Date:Jul 1, 2018
Words:997
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