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The History of Ink, Including Its Etymology, Chemistry, and Bibliography

Contributed by David Jonathan Ross on Oct 1st, 2019. Artwork published in .
    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.

    I stumbled across The History of Ink while browsing the bookshelf of a friend. It was published in 1860 by Thaddeus Davids and Company, one of the largest ink manufacturers in the world at that time.

    I was instantly captured by the book’s title page, which contains no type but is a lesson in Victorian maximalist lettering. Perhaps even more impressive is the wide array of typefaces used throughout the text. You know you’ve got a winner when Rustic No. 2 isn’t even the second-weirdest typeface on a page.

    The main text face is Madisonian, an unusual script-italic hybrid and ancestor of the slightly-tracked script. It was published by the Bruce Foundry around 1860, meaning this book might have been an early use of the typeface. Some might argue that Madisonian is not really a typeface for body text, but it certainly looks fantastic and connects nicely to the pens and inks that are the subject of the book.

    The book also features a handful of decorative typefaces from the catalog of L. Johnson & Co., renamed MacKellar, Smiths, and Jordan shortly thereafter. Hairline Italic makes prominent appearances in running heads and supporting text. Lutetian, Southern Cross, Cicero, an open Tuscan, an outlined and contoured Tuscan, and Cuneiform are used for headers and other miscellaneous roles. (This book is actually how I discovered Cuneiform, which served as the inspiration for my latest typeface.)

    This book’s type choices challenge every piece of conventional wisdom that I learned about book typography. In characteristic Victorian excess, everything feels like it is shouting. But if you think of this less as a book and more as a showpiece for ink by one of the primary players in the industry, it all begins to work and I am loving every minute of it.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Cover (lettering).

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Title page (lettering), featuring the Latin motto Vox dicta perit, litera scripta manet (“A heard voice perishes, but the written letter remains.”). Lithography by Snyder, Black & Sturm, 92 William St., New York.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Half-title featuring an open Tuscan (“History”), an outlined and contoured Tuscan with hatch fill (“Ink”), Cicero (“Etymology”), Cuneiform (“New-York”), and Hairline Italic (“Thaddeus Davids & Co.”).

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    An example of Lutetian in use for headers, and Hairline Italic for running heads.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    The italic used for the smaller text is unidentified.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    “Conclusion” is set in Southern Cross. Note that the larger size used for the sample has less spurs.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Cicero and Hairline Italic used for the description of the plates.

    Introductory page, with Cuneiform, Rustic, a fat face, and Madisonian for text. The drop cap with vine branches might be from the “First Series” of initial letters shown in the 1869 catalog of the Bruce foundry.
    Source: https://archive.org License: Public Domain.

    Part of a list of how to say “ink” in 50 different languages. (This is lettered as far as I can tell.)

    Typefaces

    • Madisonian
    • Hairline Italic
    • Cuneiform
    • Cicero
    • Lutetian
    • Southern Cross
    • Two-Line Great Primer Ornamented No. 36
    • Ornamented Nos. 25 & 37 (Boston)
    • Rustic No. 2
    • unidentified typeface

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