Common Typefaces in 1790-1850 England and 1870-1915 France?
October 15, 2004 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Mefi typographers and historians, lend me your knowledge!
What typefaces were most common for the following applications during the following time spans and in the following locations? (follow inside)

Time: 1790 through 1850
Place: Britain
Application: leaflets and handbills

Same as above, application: journals and books

Time: 1870 through 1915
Place: France
Applications: see above

I am interested especially in typefaces historically associated with left-wing labor and socialist movements in Europe. What face(s) would the People's Charter have been printed in? The Communist Manifesto? Did the SPD (which, of course, is still around) favor any one typeface for its 90 odd newspapers? You get the idea.

Are these faces (or reasonable facsimiles) available in digital form?
posted by Grod to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Bodoni comes to mind for the handbills.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:42 PM on October 15, 2004

Bodoni, most definately.

The Communist Manifesto was written using a Gothic font of some type.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:48 AM on October 16, 2004

Perhaps not exactly what you're asking for, but still:
A free reconstruction of a 17th century English typeface is here.
For facsimiles of early 20th century fonts take a look at what the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society offers here. The amount of detail these guys put into their roleplaying props is... weird.
A fraktur font, as in the Communist Manifesto, would not have been used in Britain or France.
posted by Termite at 5:19 AM on October 16, 2004

For 18th & 19th century English printing, try Caslon. (See also this brief bio of Caslon.)

You'll also need to use the long S.
posted by D.C. at 6:18 AM on October 16, 2004

Caslon has some beautiful ligatures and swashes.
posted by tenseone at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2004

Briefly: the late eighteenth century was the period when 'old face' typefaces like Caslon were replaced by 'modern' typefaces like Bodoni. The sort of cheap print you are talking about -- pamphlets, handbills, etc -- would in many cases have been produced by small printers with a limited stock of type, and might therefore have been slower to adopt the 'modern' style. But by the early nineteenth century, Bodoni (and its many derivatives) had become the standard.

Here are a few websites with examples of cheap print from the early nineteenth century:

The Ephemera of John Smith, from nineteenth-century Scotland, including some political handbills.

Broadside Ballads from the Bodleian Library, only a few images, but usefully illustrating the contrast between early eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century styles of typography.

You might also be interested in Louis James's book Print and the People 1819-1851 (1976), which contains lots of examples of cheap print aimed at a working-class readership.
posted by verstegan at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2004

I don't know how common Bodoni had gotten in England by the mid-nineteenth century. A less Continental alternative would be Bell, which has some of the same Modern flavor with a more British accent.

For earlier work, I second/third/etc. the recommendations for Caslon. You might also like to try the pre-weathered Fell types from Hoefler & Frere-Jones.
posted by letourneau at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2004

Wow, this is great. Thank you all so much.
posted by Grod at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2004

Grod, you also might want to poke around at the International Institute of Social History's collections. Tons of actual documents/pamphlets/etc are there.
posted by amberglow at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2004

definately Bodoni. Bitstream Bodoni is remarkably similar. This is good stuff, thanks again all.
posted by Grod at 7:35 PM on October 16, 2004

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