Chronicle, a “blended Scotch.”
A vigorous hybrid of time-honored forms and contemporary design strategies, Chronicle Text is a new suite of high-performance text faces that brings strength and utility to the classic serif.
Seriffed text faces are often casually grouped into two major divisions: wholehearted Old Styles, which vaguely reference their calligraphic origins, and steely Moderns, whose highly rational designs aspire to mathematical precision. Old Styles are prized for their warmth, which they achieve through heavily bracketed serifs and a policy of planned inconsistencies (an Old Style’s lowercase c and o are thickest in different places, for example.) Moderns produce the opposite result — a detached, elegant simplicity — and, crucially for both typefounders and designers, their forms naturally invite endless variation in weight and width.
Bridging these extremes is the Transitional style, which combines the energy and ardor of Old Styles with the sobriety and adaptability of Moderns. The most functional and enduring subspecies of Transitional is the Scotch, a form of typeface originating at the end of the eighteenth century, and associated with Scottish typefounders Alexander Wilson and William Miller. The opening of the Binny & Ronaldson foundry in Philadelphia, begun by Scottish émigrés Archibald Binny and James Ronaldson in 1796, helped establish the style in the United States, where it has since remained a fundamental part of the modern typographic vocabulary. Some of the twentieth century’s most significant designs are tributes to the Scotch style, including W. A. Dwiggins’ interpretive Caledonia (1938), and Matthew Carter’s definitive anthology Miller (1997).
The Style Revisited
Nineteenth century Scotch faces enjoyed early popularity among book printers, but the rise of industrialized newspaper publishing quickly revealed their limitations. Delicate hairlines and serifs vanished under thin ink, low quality paper, and ruthless presses that operated at breakneck speeds. Signature details, like the pipe-shaped tail on the capital R and lowercase a, became traps for ink and pulp — a problem that plagued every lowercase letter in the dainty Scotch italic. The faces that were gutsy and smart when carefully printed were undone by the slightest variables: underinked they became dour, overinked they felt sluggish.
Beginning in 2002, we revisited the Scotch style with the goal of producing two families of fonts: a text face that would withstand the effects of different kinds of media, and a display face that would unlock the potential of the Scotch style to support a broad range of weights and widths. The result is Chronicle Text, a series of hard-working text faces produced in four press-sensitive “grades”, and Chronicle Display, an abundant collection of 46 display faces that includes three different widths, six different weights, and versions for two different sizes — each in both roman and italic.