It’s a shame that penmanship may eventually fall into disuse as we do more with keyboards and voice. But if you’re romantic about handwriting, you can always adopt a font as your de-facto digital “handwriting.” Maybe someday, digital handwriting will eventually be vital and personal enough that it will be a marker of personality — almost the way perfumes or cars do.
Or maybe that won’t happen. Either way: marvel at the beauty of these historical penmanship fonts. “Emily Austin” is perhaps the most beautiful, but Castine (bottom) might be good for days when you’re feeling so blue that you want to write in a cemetery font. (Brian Willson, the type designer at Three Islands Press, designed the typeface from from grave rubbings taken in old cemeteries in Maine.)
The font at top, Antiquarian, is brand new. Willson says that a new font is in the works for this fall, but that these things typically take one to three months of development. All his typefaces are historic relics inspired by a real person’s writing; the new typeface coming out this fall will be based on the penmanship of Frederick Douglass).
I’d be remiss if I didn’t reproduce Willson’s fonts’ historical backstories on the Press’s website, oldfonts.com, mellifluous as they are:
“Antiquarian: The titles struck me as handsome– The titles and captions and place labels on a page I have of Henri Abraham Chatelain’s Atlas Historique. I’d already modeled Antiquarian Scribe after the neat, slanted penmanship used in the body text of Chatelain’s famous old world atlas; now I felt compelled to digitize this legible roman handlettering, as well. The letterforms are strong and handsome. They’ve got a certain deft, organic character. A personality. I can’t fully explain it. But this antique alphabet seems suitable for many applications.
“Emily Austin: An indomitable woman who traveled a lot– Emily Austin (Bryan) Perry was one of the children of Moses Austin, of Austinville, Virginia. Like her famous brother, Stephen F. Austin, she settled in Texas as one of that region’s earliest colonists. In her travels, she wrote many letters homeâ€”letters that show a distinctively compact, legible hand. The challenge for me in designing the face: resisting the temptation to read and re-read her bossy directives and urgent appeals, all packed tightly together on a page. Has a complete character set, and then some.
“Castine There’s a cemetery in Castine, Maine– a lovely coastal town perhaps best known for Maine Maritime Academy and a surviving crop of stately old American elms with headstones dating back into the 18th century, with the standard old headstone shape, often topped by winged skulls. Thanks to Deborah Pulliam, I got my hands on a couple rubbings; these show a particular style of stonecarving that proved captivating to the point of typeface design.”
Antiquarian and Emily Austin: $39; Castine $49.
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