Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Effie Gray page from Ornamental Digressions

In August 1848 Effie Gray arrived in Abbeville, France with her husband of four months, John Ruskin. While there, John scurried about measuring and drawing from dawn to dusk while Effie often found herself alone to take in the sights. It is easy to imagine that Effie's days in Abbeville were colored, if not dominated, by the shock and humiliation of their wedding night, and all the nights since, as it became clearer and clearer that something was seriously wrong with John. But whatever Effie's mental state during her time in Abbevile, she was particularly struck by the facade of the "the magnificent Cathedral of St. Wilfran," about which she wrote, "I was very much confounded with the mixture of the grand and the ridiculous in the whole scene..." Whether or not she was making an allusion to her marriage in this observation, and it is doubtful that she was, it is hard not to see some connection in retrospect. Being married to John Ruskin was nothing if not publicly grand and privately ridiculous.

In thinking about a design for Ornamental Digressions inspired by Effie's description of St. Wilfran, I wanted to make a design that would be part rose window, part carnival ride, and be printed in day-glo colors to raise the alarm: Warning! Get out while you can, Effie! I opted for a sixteen arm design because Why not?, and it would let me play with my extra-fancy angular lock-up furniture. The text was too long for a single line of type, so my first thought was to break it in two and place the design between the text.

The result was disappointing for two reasons: 1) the design appeared to be squished in a vice of the text and 2) the central section of the design felt unresolved. Each of the sixteen arms is composed of three spurs, and in the first proof the central spur of each arm is too short and the exterior spur too long. The central spur feels too far away from the center; the exterior spur too close to its neighbor.

Although the Pinwheel Ornament set includes 14 pieces, it clearly wasn't enough. The lovely concentric wave that was created by the longest spur of each arm was interrupted by the central and outer spurs being the wrong length. There was no option but to mortise some of the ornaments in half to correct the problem.


Here's the mortised type locked up in the forme.

Once printed, the central section felt much more cohesive. I also moved the design up on the page and brought both lines of text together at the bottom, separated by a day-glo orange Warning! rule.

Below is a close up of the print in sunlight to give a better idea of the colors, and a shot of one of the lock ups in my extra-fancy lock-up furniture.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Announcing a new metal typeface: Baker

The first trial casting of my new metal typeface, Baker, has arrived from Swamp Press & Letterfoundry, where the matrices were engraved by Ed Rayher. After proofing the type, I am revising the short T, the S, and the Z, but we are nearly there. We now expect the type to be complete and ready to ship in July.

 A close-up of the first casting of Baker.

The type design is based on the late Republican inscription on the tomb of M. Vergilius Eurysaces, a contract baker in the first century BCE. The tomb is located just outside the Porta Maggiore in Rome. Its facade is notable as "a pure experiment in geometrical forms*," an experiment that is carried through to its letterforms. Few classical monuments are so modern in their design or so fully integrated in the design of their architecture and their lettering. The tomb appears to straddle millenia, or to exist outside of time altogether, a quality that is accentuated by its proximity to the comparatively fussy and rusticated Porta Maggiore.

A detail of the Baker's tomb, showing the geometrical facade and a section of the inscription.

Baker is a 24pt type. It consists of the twenty-six majuscules, a tall T and tall I (both cast on a  30pt body), the ten figures, period, comma, semi-colon, colon, exclamation, question, hyphen, en dash, single open quote, single closed quote/apostrophe, ampersand, dollar sign, and three center dots: a triangle-esque, a diamond, and a shadow circle (not pictured in the image below). The A, R, T, V, W, Y will all come in kerning and non-kerning characters. The fonts will be standard 16 A half-jobbing fonts, but the figures will be reduced by a quarter because no one really needs that many figures and it will allow for the alternate kerning characters. If you are interested in purchasing a font, email me at russellmaret (at) me.com.

A proof of the first casting of Baker. The short T, S, and Z will be revised.

*L. Richardson A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1992) 355.
Photo of Eurysaces' tomb by Annie Schlechter.