G Thing

Typeface: Acropolis

An Acropolis Italic sighting is a rare event, so even at 48 pixels I couldn’t help but notice that George Garrastegui used the font’s letter G in his Twitter icon. George was kind enough to send me the original file, though it’s not the mere design fragment I’d assumed: it’s a photo of a foot-high sculpture in corrugated cardboard, made manifest by fellow designer Maurizio Masi. Thank goodness George’s name begins with a letter that can stand on its own, for had he been ‘Frank’ or ‘Peter’ he’d have been doomed to the Sisyphean life of forever righting his own lopsided initial.

Is it me, or is there something vaguely menacing about the typeface when it’s enlarged to these proportions? Maybe it’s a byproduct of being given material form; curiously, this is not the first time Acropolis Italic has gotten a spooky 3-D treatment… —JH

Breaking News!

Typeface: Verlag Condensed Black

We’re resisting the temptation to go against last year’s declaration that April Fools’ Day website goofs are inherently unfunny, so it pleases me to instead have an genuine update regarding someone else’s typographic silliness.

Eighteen months ago, we reported on a mysterious typographic gift that materialized outside the H&FJ offices. Today, I am delighted to report that the culprit (artist) has come forward! Rob Keller — who may well be a typeface designer graduated from the University of Reading, but will always be known to me as The Grecian Bandit — apparently included us on his rounds when distributing ceramic letter sculptures throughout the city, as part of a project called Left Out Letters. Check out the collection of photos on his blog: in addition to Plaintiff's Exhibit A documenting his Acropolis Italic h and fj, there’s a fantastic tableau showing a French Clarendon lowercase m being worshipped by a field of dairy cows. Which is exactly how type designers like to imagine our planet looks like from outer space, at least metaphorically. —JH

Grecian Fonts: A Miscellany

I thought I’d bid farewell to H&FJ Greek Week with a glimpse inside some of our library’s more exotic type specimens. After the jump, some stellar Grecian typefaces which have yet to be properly revived, and the type specimen books in which they’re showcased so well.

The above is unusual: it’s the 10-Line Grecian Double Extra Condensed of William Page (1872), and eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that it’s printed not in black and white, but in retina-searing magenta. Why? It’s because this specimen, the rare Wm. H. Page & Co. Wood Type of 1872, was a joint venture to promote both wood type made by Page, and printing inks made by H. D. Wade & Co. of New York. Even at the age of 135, the book’s colors are alarmingly bright and rich, doubtless because they contain unlawfully toxic levels of cadmium and other heavy metals.

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Ode on a Grecian Kern

Greek Week Continues!

Like all good New Yorkers, we know how to respond to unattended packages: with deep dread and unbridled panic. Yet despite our daily diet of Orwellian public service announcements, a devil-may-care attitude moved someone at H&FJ to immediately open the unmarked brown paper parcel that was left outside our door (candy!), inside which were these: a pair of fired clay sculptures in the shape of — what else? — the h and fj from our very own Grecian italic typeface, and this week’s cause célèbre, Acropolis Italic. Bookends? Graven images? Anyone care to fess up? Whoever you are, you’ve earned your stripes for ginning up an ‘fj’ ligature where there was none; that takes both thoughtfulness and pluck. So thank you for the gift, secret admirer! Do get in touch so we can send you a proper thank-you note, or a restraining order. — JH

My Big Fat Grecian Lettering

Greek Week Continues!

Making good on his standing promise to rid the world of enamel signs, and warehouse them in the office for our personal amusement, Tobias came across this little bit of heaven in a local antique shop. The full image features a stalwart gent in lederhosen hoisting a beer stein, but for typophiles, this is where all the action is: cousin to the Grecian italic, it’s a (1) faceted (2) chromatic (3) blackletter that would have made a nice auxiliary to our Knox typeface. Three great tastes that taste great together! — JH

Greek Week Continues

Typeface: Acropolis Black Italic

Right on the heels of yesterday’s post about Grecian italics comes this, a reminder that Swing University is back in session. Swing U, a production of Jazz at Lincoln Center, is a terrific series of courses directed by jazz authority Phil Schaap. Design Director Bobby Martin Jr. developed this identity for Swing U using none other than Acropolis Black Italic, what was heretofore the world’s only Grecian italic typeface, and certainly one of the most exotic faces in the H&Co collection. Every octagonal typeface has a collegiate quality, and Martin cleverly teased this out of Acropolis by adding a double outline that’s right off a varsity jacket. That he’s got the swash T in there adds a nice note of syncopation — a great way of marrying academics and bop. It makes perfect sense and looks great; to paraphrase Count Basie, “if it looks good, it is good.” — JH

Mrs. Gray and the Mystery of the Grecian Italic

“Grecians” are slab serif typefaces in which curves are replaced by bevelled corners. The fashion for octagonal letters took off in the 1840s (the style may have begun with an American wood type, produced by Johnson & Smith in 1841), and by the end of the decade there were all manner of Grecians on the market: narrow ones, squat ones, light ones, ones with contrasting thicks and thins, and ones without. It’s unusual that the rather obvious “square-proportioned” Grecian didn't arrive until 1857, and that no one thought to add a lowercase until 1870. It’s this very center of the Grecian universe that our Acropolis typeface occupies, which includes an additional feature of our own invention: a Grecian italic, something that no Victorian typefounder ever thought to create.

Or so we thought. This is the Six-Line Reversed Egyptian Italic of William Thorowgood, which sure enough qualifies as a Grecian italic. It has many peculiar features, but the most unearthly is its date: 1828, thirteen years before the first Grecian roman appeared. What’s the story?

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