Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath album art
5 Comments on “Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath album art”
Many sources claim that the typeface used on this album cover is Manuscript Capitals. That’s close, but no cigar. Also, this Letraset typeface was released only in 1972, two years after the album. Mark Simonson answered the question many years ago, on the TYPO-L mailing list:
The two typefaces are very similar to each other, at least in the swash letters that are used for the cover. It is not clear which came first, Abbey Scroll or Daisy. Maybe there is a common historic precursor – both Formatt and Solotype are known to feature material from various sources, rarely with credits and not always under the original name.
It can be argued that Daisy’s alternate ‘L’ is a little closer to the more open one in ‘BLACK’. So is the bottom terminal of ‘C’. But then, those glyphs are no perfect matches either. If you take a close look at the inner counters of ‘B’, you’ll discover more differences. One may take into account that dry-transfer letters can get distorted or damaged in the process, but my guess is that it is actually handlettering, closely modeled after Daisy Rimmed Fancy.
Neither Daisy nor Abbey Scroll are available in digital form.
Looks like we finally can put this riddle to bed once and for all! While browsing the fathomless One Line Manual of Styles by Photo-Lettering Inc., I stumbled upon Eminence, another rimmed all-caps serif with close similarities to Abbey Scroll, Daisy Rimmed Fancy and Manuscript Capitals.
The sample only includes a few characters, but it is enough to confirm that Eminence indeed is the face used on the Black Sabbath cover, see the ‘C’ with curly top and blunt bottom, the lighter leg in ‘K’, the counters in ‘H’ and ‘S’. ‘T’ (not pictured in the scan) is a match, too. Eminence is listed as “original handlettered design” and appears in Alphabet Thesaurus Vol. 2 from 1965 as Xenotype 3538.
Is there any creepier record art? They really hit all the right spooky notes with this cover.
Unsurprisingly, Eminence, Daisy Rimmed Fancy, Abbey Scroll and Manuscript Capitals have historical precursors. One such face is shown as Harper Rimmed Initials in the 1897 catalog of Day & Collins, a wood type manufacturer in Fann Street, London.
Harper was originally designed by Gustav F. Schroeder for the Central Type Foundry.
The portfolio Twelve Unusual Alphabets Compiled by Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes (1970) contains a showing (see Sheet 9) of an alphabet that is an exact match for the Black Sabbath album cover. It is possible that this may have been the source used by Keef for the cover, as the portfolio was available in 1970 and printed in London. No precise date of publication is provided, however the included season’s greetings from the authors suggests that it might have been prepared as early as late 1969. All the alphabets shown appear to be based on existing faces, so it is possible that either Eminence or a version of Harper was the original source on which this portfolio’s alphabet is based.
Patrick, great find! I agree that this looks like the final missing piece in the puzzle. It’s not totally out of the question that Keef ordered a setting of Eminence from Photo-Lettering in New York, but it’s rather unlikely. The showing in Twelve Unusual Alphabets is a more plausible source. This is supported by the comparison below. Note how the C is slightly tilted to the right, just like on the album cover (right), but not like in Eminence (middle):
Judging from the (limited) samples for the Central’s foundry version of Harper which look different (certainly in some sizes), both Eminence and the alphabet by Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes are probably based on Harper Rimmed Initials, the wood type adapation made by Day & Collins before 1897. Day & Collins were based in London, so it’s thinkable that Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes reproduced the “unusual alphabet” directly from the domestic wood type version, without the detour via Eminence.
The chronology then looks like this:
1882 (?): Harper with initials by Gustav F. Schroeder for Central Type Foundry
before 1897: Harper Rimmed Initials by Day & Collins
1962: Eminence by PLINC
1969/1970: Unusual Alphabet #9 by Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes
1972: Manuscript Capitals by Bob Newman for Letraset
before 1974: Abbey Scroll by Formatt (?)
before 1992: Daisy Rimmed by Solotype (?)