Fat Faces

Fat Faces

Text excerpts from “The Bold Idea: The use of Bold-looking Types in the Nineteenth Century”, by Michael Twyman, published in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society nº 22, 1993.

Bold, with Serifs: The first BIG typefaces for Advertising

The need for bold type related to what might be described as the growth of non-linearity in graphic design, which reflected new ways of thinking about the design of texts. Such non-linearity must have been encouraged by awareness of the Descartian theory of co-ordinates, which led to the introduction of line graphs and bar charts in the last quarter of the eighteen century. Less obviously, non-linearity can be seen in the growth of typographic material (such as distance charts, synchronistic tables, catalogues, advertisements, and directories) that relied little if at all on the linear strategies of reading on which most writing and printing had hitherto depended.

Fat Faces Font Sample 1Fat Faces Font Sample 2
Estate to be let notice, printed by John Soulby (Junior), Ulverston, 1822. The University of Reading Collection.
In advertising terms, Soulby (Junior) adopts a successfull approach, using fat face types from Bower & Bacon in Sheffield to draw attention to the two main lines of the copy.
Canon Expanded, nº1, Stephenson Blake & Co., Sheffield, c. 1876. St Bride Printing Library.

Lottery bills lead the way

Taking their inspiration from the designers of lottery bills of the first decades of the nineteenth century, who used striking and often bold woodcut letters for the main lines of their copy, most British typefounders were issuing bold display types by the 1820s. The fat face was the earliest such type and can be found in British typefounders’ specimens by 1810.

Fat Faces Font Sample 3
Five-Line pica nº 5, Thorowgood, 1821.
St Bride Printing Library.
Fat Faces Font Sample 4
Handbill, John Soulby Junior, Ulverston, 1833. The University of Reading Collection.


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