Driving me (Dr.) Batty
July 17, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Please help me identify the typefaces in this phony patent medicine ad.

This supposed ad for Dr. Batty's Asthma Cigarettes has been hopscotching around the web for a while - including appearing on Metafilter (where empath smartly spotted it as fake.

Now it has popped up in an online exhibit from the Stanford School of Medicine. (View images by theme and then look under medicinal cigarettes.) I dropped them a line to advise them thus, and the person responding agreed that while actual asthma cigarettes did exist, this certainly seemed like a modern construction. But he wanted to be sure.

I know it has to be a modern construction - the misspellings, layout, kerning, typefaces and the very modern phrase "not for children under six" tell me so - but I can't prove it. I've tried running the text through What the Font?, but the image is so low in resolution (and I'm so bad at comparing typefaces) that I can't come up with any matches.

I'd love your help in identifying the typefaces used and their age, and thus answering the question of this ad's authenticity once and for all. Thanks.
posted by jocelmeow to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A librarian/conservator/archivist for a medical school really didn't immediately spot that as a fake?

Oy vey. And to think there are unemployed people all over the country who are actually qualified to hold that job.

The "ad" has photoshop/illustrator written all over it, for one thing. I mean, to the point that anyone who's ever heard of digital graphic design would immediately notice it.

I don't know the technical terms for a lot of the "wrong" things, but some things that jump out at me are the particular angle on the arc of "Dr. Batty's", the way the "seal of approval" is laid over Dr. Batty's portrait (doesn't look real at all, and it's unlikely that a metal sign would be embossed that way), the blurring around the edges (looks like computerized blurring, and also aging on a metal sign != "blur"), the artificial look of the "aging" at the corners, and the way that some of the typefaces are artificially distressed and some are not. Artificially distressed typefaces did not exist in the 19th century (obviously), and if it were real all the text would be distressed to the same degree because they are part of the same physical object.

As for identifying the typefaces, a lot of them are just straight up WRONG - even if you don't go as far as identifying them as specific modern typefaces. "Since 1802" especially jumps out at me - I don't remember the name of that font, but it's definitely from the late 20th century at the earliest. It's entirely too modern to be on any ad from earlier than mid 20th century (that's when the ultra minimalist Swiss typefaces started to appear, of which that typeface is derivative).

Also, the #1 reason it's obvious that this is fake is that it's a digital file which doesn't appear to be a photograph of an actual sign. That really should be the first question the librarian should have - what is this, if it's not an actual object that exists somewhere to be photographed directly?
posted by Sara C. at 11:01 AM on July 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also "canker sores" is misspelled? Who is this person running the medical library's online exhibits?!
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on July 17, 2010

Another way to prove it is fake would be run the image file through Tin Eye and notice that it leads you to a bunch of sites selling this image on a sign, with no provenance.
posted by Sara C. at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2010

Best answer: Larger

Euphorigenic (Ray Larabie, 1999).

Ariston BQ Extra (Martin Wilke, 1933). Info: "The script typeface used for the top quality Ariston cigarette, "Ariston, Germany’s most distinguished, recognized best cigarette", was produced in three weights, and it seemed to make sense to name the typeface Ariston® BQ."
posted by user92371 at 11:26 AM on July 17, 2010

A metal sign like this would never go through a hot-metal typesetting press. It might get embossed, and at the very least painted by hand. It is clearly not embossed or painted by hand.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:21 PM on July 17, 2010

Also, if you were to compare the "punch outs" in each corner, pixel by pixel, you would find that they are all 100% identical.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2010

Copy it into a art program. Any art program. Zoom in on it really small, I'll wait. Note how the edge of every line in every letter of "Asthma Cigarettes" is perfectly vertical except where the water spotting effect occurs. Try recreating that with a scanned object or reasonable complexity.

Dr. Batty my nod to some historic happenings, but he was born in cyberspace.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:42 PM on July 17, 2010

There really were asthma cigarettes, though.

I'm pretty sure that smoking belladonna isn't good for you.
posted by empath at 3:28 PM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, empath, there were. The gentleman at Stanford sent me a whole scholarly paper about the topic, which you can find here: Medical History, 2010, 54: 171–194. “Divine Stramonium”: The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma by Mark Jackson.

I think I have sufficient answer here. The typeface dates should put this thing to rest. If he replies and is interested, I'll pass some of the other information along. Thanks, all.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2010

In the future, although this may not have worked here, What the Font is a pretty solid tool for figuring out fonts.
posted by emilyclaire at 8:17 PM on July 17, 2010

Response by poster: emilyclaire, you'll see from the next-to-last paragraph in my question that I attempted that and was not able to get good matches due to the low resolution of the image I had.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:47 AM on July 18, 2010

Best answer: I should be able to shed some light on this.

The two fonts used are 'Manzanita' and 'Aristrocrat'.

I work at a sign company and I designed this one as a fledgling graphic designer
about 8 years ago. We still sell this one quite often.

I found most of the wording from old ads for actual asthma cigarettes.
I made up the line "Not recommended for children under 6." Seemed appropriate
for the time....

I think it is really funny how this has been presented as an authentic vintage
advertisement on more than one site. Looks pretty fake too me!

Hope this helped!
posted by clean-images at 8:41 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Please ignore all my misspellings, on the art and my posts.

I was schooled in Texas.....
posted by clean-images at 8:43 PM on March 27, 2011

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