Chasing curiousities

The last time Gerard (Unger) gave me feedback on my typeface, he introduced me to two typefaces by Monotype—Veronese and Italian Old Style. Monotype Veronese, as Christopher Burke writes in his article in the centenary issue of The Monotype Recorder, was one of the few typefaces that Monotype made at that time as a custom design for a client. The client was Joseph Dent of J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., who printed the Everyman’s Library books, and needed a typeface based on Venetian romans for his publications. Along with Veronese, an alternate version called Italian Old Style was also designed, and eventually the designs were merged. I became interested in the typefaces, and in the small difference between the designs. During his visit to Reading, Dan Rhatigan had encouraged us to use the Monotype archives, and I thought it would be well worth my effort to take up this opportunity, and look at the original material for both typefaces.

Monotype Veronese (Series 59) was produced in 1911, and made its first appearance in the the July-September issue of The Monotype Recorder in 1914. The most distinctive feature of the typeface was  the very mechanical-looking slab serifs.

Monotype Veronese in use at 12 point in The Monotype Recorder, July–September issue of 1914.

In July 1912, a suggestion was made to “prepare a new face on same lines”. Less than a month later, the first entry is made for Series 108, which became Italian Old Style. This alternate version had bracketed serifs. The first trials of the typeface in the archives are dated September 28, 1912. But, it is only after the First World War in 1919, that Italian Old Style was issued and was used in The Monotype Recorder. It is clear from the card catalogues that the designs were developed in parallel (notes about changing the diamond shaped period and other punctuation marks are made for both designs, for instance), and Dent’s feedback was sought for both.

Detail from Trial No .1 of Series 108, 11 point dated 28-9-12.

The odd thing is that in boxes that contain the original drawings for Series 108 (Italian Old Style), the letters for the regular style have slab serifs, just like the drawings for Series 59 (Veronese). The trials, as one can see above, suggest that the typeface had bracketed serifs. As does the specimen issued by Monotype. Where did the drawings go? The only trace I could find of the bracketed serifs was in two sheets in the box labeled Series 59. The first drawing with the lowercase /i/ explicitly states that the drawing is not for Series 108-10. The other drawing is of the lowercase /u/, and the rounding off of the serifs doesn’t actually happen in Italian Old Style. Strangely enough, the bracketed serifs of Italian Old Style magically appear on the drawings made for photocomposition.

Drawing of lowercase /u/ belonging to the set for Series 59 suspected to be made for Series 108, compared with the drawing for Series 108 made for photocomposition. The rounding off of the serifs does not happen in 108 at all.

Box containing the drawings for photocomposition for Series 108 Italic Old Style. The letters have bracketed serifs.

The drawings remain a mystery after my day at the archives. What was meant to be a simple look at the material turned out quite differently. That is the risk, I guess, of chasing curiousities. In May of 1967, Series 59 (Veronese) was discontinued, and it never made it to photocomposition. The designs were merged: bracketed serifs for sizes 8–13, and slab serifs for the larger display sizes. After the assimilation someone went through all the trial prints of Series 59, and crossed the number out and replaced it with 108 and moved them to that file.

The last entry on the card for Series 59, declaring its discontinuation.

Veronese and Italian Old Style both saw some success as metal type, but the records suggest that no purchases were made for Series 108 for the Monophoto or Filmsetter 600/System 2000. The typeface(s) were never digitised.

All photographs in this post are of material from the Monotype Archives.
Christopher Burke’s article The early years: 1900–1912 can be found in The Monotype Recorder, Centenary issue; New series, no.10, 1997, pp.4-13.

Comments 2

  1. Tim December 2, 2012

    Pooja, I cam across your site while searching for information on Monotype Series 108. Very glad to have found your writing on the subject! I came to be interested in 108 because of a book — rather, a set of three books — called “The Plan of St. Gall.” It is one of the monumental works of bookmaking of the 20th century, and though it was published by the University of California, the typesetting was done in England — with Monotype Italian Old Style Series 108 as the display face. (According to the Monotype website, Series 108 is “not to be confused with” IOS Series 243, by Frederic Goudy, produced in the USA. Going overseas to secure the exact typeface you want? That’s dedication to craft.) Ernest Born, an architect, designed “The Plan of St. Gall,” and in addition to IOS 108, he expanded or recreated several medieval handcut faces for use as display text in the books’ pages. All together, they are a beautiful synthesis of text and design, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them. Happily, they have now been digitized. (Very happily, since a set of the books can cost a thousand pounds…) Again, thanks for the information on Series 108. Pleased to know more about it, even if I won’t be able to use it any time soon!

  2. Amateur6 February 1, 2013

    Despite the fact that this post is almost a year old, I can’t help but comment on the remarkable similarity between these Monotype faces and William Morris’ Golden type of 1890 (inspired by Nicolaus Jenson’s roman type) — especially in the first sample of Veronese. ITC produced its own version of Golden, though I can’t determine an exact date for that; it would provide a clue as to who was ripping off whom.

    The most obvious difference between these and Golden are the dots over the “i” and “j”, which are oddly rhomboid in Golden, like small hyphens turned vertical. However, they share the double-sided slab-like serifs on BOTH sides of the top strokes for “N” and “M” — again, taken from Jenson.

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