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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Type Tuesday - Fat Faces

Today's Type Tuesday features images from a periodical available in our Kemble Collection, Alphabet and Image: A Quarterly of Typography and Graphic Arts.  Published in London by the Shenval Press from 1946 to 1948, Alphabet and Image enjoyed an eight issue run. The Kemble Collection holds all but the inaugural issue. 

As a place for typographers, illustrators and graphic designers to publish histories, criticisms and their own research on type and design, the quarterly featured articles such as A.F. Johnson's Fat Faces: Their History, Forms and Use. All of the following images come from Johnson's article on the Fat Face font. 

According to Johnson, the earliest known appearance of Fat Faces are in 19th-century English advertising mediums such as theatre bills, lottery advertisements, posters, leaflets, title pages of pamphlets, and broadsides, "especially those relating to sensational happenings, murders, deaths by fire" and any other ghastly crimes or accidents that might have befallen a British person in the early to mid-1800s.

Founder Robert Thorne is credited with the first usage of Fat Faces, and other foundries such as Bower and Bacon (1810), Figgins (1816), W. Caslon IV (1816) and L. Pouchee (1819) soon followed. 

Johnson points out that Fat Face is a 20th-century title given to a 19th-century created font that is very similar to other classical modern faces of the time period which featured thin, flat serifs with an abrupt contrast of thick and thin strokes. In the case of Fat Faces, the contrast of thick and thin strokes was greatly exaggerated. 

Alphabet and Image: A Quarterly of Typography and Graphic Arts is just one example of the typography, graphic design and printing periodicals available in the California Historical Society's Kemble Collection on Western Printing and Publishing. Please visit us in our research library to view materials from the Kemble Collection, open Wednesday through Friday, 12 - 5. 

Jaime Henderson,

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