14 September, 2007
Except in the most conservative of settings, there's nothing unusual about freely mixing serifs and sans serifs in text. This technique might still be unexpected in a novel, or in the main text of a newspaper, but otherwise it's a familiar device that designers have employed for decades. This image could be a piece of printed ephemera from the thirties — a legal notice on a train ticket, perhaps, or a gummed label from an appliance box. It's really only the loose spacing that marks this as an antique at all: track everything in a little, and brighten up the paper, and this could easily be a front-of-book service piece in a magazine.
Where it's completely unexpected is in the pages of a 131-year-old type specimen book. This example, showing the eleven point Law Face in combination with an eerily Helvetica-like Gothic No. 7, is from the Compact Specimens of James Conner's Sons (United States Type Foundry) issued in 1876. Conner's foundry offered a promiscuous collection of fonts, and the layouts of his specimen books were pretty anarchic, so perhaps this setting was simply an accident of probability. Still, it's odd to imagine this very modern piece of typography sharing a world with Wyatt Earp and Jesse James. — JH