Accuracy v. clarity

It’s interesting to consider the things that this railway map of 1912 has in common with Henry Beck’s Underground diagram. Of course there is the colour coding of lines, but this map retains the cartographer’s use of pastel colours bounded by black outlines rather than the graphic border-less lines of Beck.

At first sight, it appears to be geographical, and it’s easy to check this as most of the lines still exist. Laying an image of the map over a map from reveals that, in common with Beck, the complex central area is expanded, and the contextually important, but less complex outer extremities are compressed. The curvature of the lines that exit from the map is exaggerated, the orientation is amended to make the central area almost horizontal, and the Thames is reduced to contextualizing fragments where the lines cross it.

I’m not sure that the current Wikipedia visualization of these junctions is an improvement!

¶ If you’re unfamiliar with pre-metric British measurements, m = mile and c = chain (= 66 feet/22 yards). Because track distances were historically recorded in miles and chains, the unit is effectively still in use on Britain’s railways – take at look at the retaining wall on your left as you leave Paddington for the West.

¶ Rob Waller discusses some related ideas about stressing the important bits of a visual message here.

(1912 map and current visualization from Wikipedia; geographic map from

No X please, it’s the Bible

To provide 3-line drop initials for the Oxford Lectern Bible (1935), Monotype cut a special semi-bold titling series, which is shown in the OUP ‘List of jobbing founts’ under the same Series number, 295, as the regular Centaur Titling.

Bruce Rogers describes the design process in his booklet ‘An account of the making of the Oxford Lectern Bible’: ‘The Centaur capitals were not heavy enough for the three-line chapter initials: so a new fount was cut. The first cutting proved to be too heavy, but the second cutting produced the initials shown here.’

You might expect this to be a full titling alphabet – but why the note ‘No “X” available’?

Another OUP specimen, ‘List of Monotype founts’ provides the answer. An Authorized Version of the Bible requires an initials of every letter of the alphabet – except X. The full table is shown below:

Being mean with letters you didn’t need was a bit of a Bible tradition at Oxford. The New Emerald Bible type, designed by Harry Carter, was only equipped with two small capitals, D and R. These were quite sufficient to set the only two words that appear in cap and small cap in the Authorized Version, ‘LORD’ and ‘GOD’. The lower-case o doubled as a small capital in this typeface.

‘An account of the making of the Oxford Lectern Bible’, Philadelphia: Lanston Monotype Machine Company [c. 1941]

‘List of | JOBBING | FOUNTS | Monotype and foundry | at the | UNIVERSITY PRESS | OXFORD | [swelled rule] | OXFORD | Printed by VIVIAN RIDLER | at the UNIVERSITY PRESS | October 1962’


Photograph of ‘An account …’ by Raph Levian

A day in …

The Oxford Almanack 1997About time we had some links to the work of Michele Tranquillini. The postcard shows a view in the Covered Market, Oxford, drawn for the Oxford Almanack. This link is to his two guide-books, A day in Rome and A day in Milan and this and this to two micro-tours of Milan.

New type faces

The first showing of designs by the current MA Typeface Design students is now at

Design by Crystian Cruz

Back to basics in reproduction technology

A reminder that you don’t need to be online to print …

(Thanks to Dave Kellam)

Public service broadcasting

Some 50 years ago, in very different economic times, commercial television companies didn’t winge about the market or seek to reduce their commitment to serious programming, as this ad, placed in the Daily Mirror, shows.

Daily Mirror, Monday, 22 September 1958, p. 10

Decus et tutamen

Here is a nice example of decoration that is useful. When you ink and print from a small area of type for a specimen, it’s good to have some support for the rollers and the paper. This way you avoid over-inking at the edges of the type area. So in this 1637 specimen of Brevier Hebrew, bought by Samuel Brown from the estate of Arend Cornelisz. van Hoogenacker in Leyden for Oxford University, a border of printer’s flower is literally in a supporting role. (Brown was swindled – few of the founts were complete – and putting them in order was a major task.)

Barker, The Oxford University Press and the spread of learning (1978), p. 11

New blog links: London lettering and the Press

In the sidebar I’ve added links to Faded London, a typo-literary blog by Peter Robins (one of the Daily Telegraph’s Paper Tigers), and Alan Formby-Jackson’s newspaper design blog.