Sunday, October 3, 2010


Bookman or Bookman Old Style is a serif typeface derived from Old Style Antique designed by Alexander Phemister in 1858 for Miller and Richard foundry. Several American foundries copied the design, including the Bruce Type Foundry, and issued it under various names. In 1901, Bruce refitted their design, made a few other improvements, and rechristened it Bartlett Oldstyle. When Bruce was taken over by ATF shortly thereafter, they changed the name to Bookman Oldstyle.

Bookman was designed as an alternative to Caslon, with straighter serifs, making it more suitable for book and display applications. It maintains its legibility at small sizes, and can be used successfully for headlines and in advertising.

Style = Serif
Classifications = Old Style
Based on = Old Style Antique
Date = 1860
Creator = Alexander Phemister
Chauncey H. Griffith
Ed Benguiat
Foundry = Bruce Type Foundry
American Type Founders
Lanston Monotype

"Bookman (typeface)." Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

Revival and Application

Wadsworth A. Parker, reponsible for issuing new types at the Bruce Foundry and later at the American Type Founders, is thought to have named Bookman around 1900. It was adapted by ATF from the Bruce Foundry’s Old Style Antique No. 210. Subsequently, several other manufacturers have adapted versions of Bookman, including Ludlow, Linotype, Monotype, and ITC.

The revival of a historical printing type, Bookman, coincided with a small rebirth of art nouveau in advertising circles, and given Bookman’s roots in that style, it no doubt appeared to be a logical choice for advertising campaigns. In about 1968, this turn-of-the century typeface was selected for United Airlines, appearing in all of its important consumer magazines. The fact that this foot featured a number of decorative letter variants met the particular requirements of the type director of the advertising agency.

Bookman has a history of controversy, being praised and damned at the same time. Daniel Berkeley Updike, the dean of typographic orthodoxy in the United States, didn’t even mention this typeface in any of his books, whereas, William A. Dwiggins, one of the best American graphic designs, considered Bookman a candidate for “reasonable human perfection” as a display type, and very close to that standard for “grace in the mass.” Despite any misgivings about the face, Bookman has been widely used in advertising and books due to its many swash variants of the letter that appeal to art directors. Carl Purington Rollins, Printer to Yale University, also agreed with Dwiggins’, claiming that the design was “a simple and honest and self-effacing type.” Some historical uses of Bookman was when Rollins coupled Bookman with the wood engravings of Thomas W. Nason in one of the charming editions of Walden, to create an almost perfect match of type and illustration. Edmer Adler also used Bookman to print Tom Sawyer in 1930 (page example displayed below), which received the accolade of being chosen for the Fifty

Books for the Year Exhibition. Old Style fonts like Bookman are renowned for the efficiency they bring to the reading experience. Bookman was widely used in 1900, when Elbert Hubbard decided that it was as close as he could come to the typographical style of Wiliam Morris, whom he emulated at his Roycroft Press. Thousands of rural American homes featured the Bookman-composed Roycroft volumes, representing the ultimate of sophistication in the accumulation of a modest library.

Bookman was first designed as a primer or book face. It has a very heavy but open appearance, with generous counters and subtle contrasts between the different parts of the letters. The ascenders and descenders are very short. THe transitional serifs, as in E and F, are large, and the C terminates without a bottom serif. The T has oblique serifs; the M has parallel stems, and the W possess center strokes that join at cap height.

It is, however, commercial use that has kept Bookman active as a standard type during the first quarter of the 20th Century. When designers were confronted with reproduction by offset lithography, it didn’t appear necessary (or in that case, possible) to bother with the typographic niceties when faced with the imprecision of early photomechanics. Therefore, the rugged Bookman was the choice for such printing processes in which hairlines were reproduced haphazardly if at all. The best example of this approach was the weekly edition of Collier’s printed by the gravure process.

About Italics

The italic supplied to Bookman is an oblique, or sloped, roman style, which retains some of the legibility of the roman when used in the mass; this departure from the normal italic is a feature that endeared Bookman to many typographers confronted with copy containing an abundance of italic. The earliest showing of the type, under the name Bookman Roman, occurs in the American Line Specimen Book, in 1903. The italic was initially shown in supplement to that volume in 1905. The Old Style Antique continued in use for many years, thanks to the mechanical improvement added to the Linotype machine in about 1900. This was a duplex (two-letter) matrix, which contained both a roman and italic, thus simplifying the composition of roman and italic type in the same line. However, italics is not widely used in the typography of newspapers in the text columns, editors preferring boldface in this application.

Lawson, Alexander S. Anatomy of a Typeface. Boston: Godine, 1990. Print.

Meggs, Philip B., and Rob Carter. Typographic Specimens: the Great Typefaces. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993. Print.

In the Context of History

The historical development of type design has been inseparable from the developments of the tools, equipment, and materials used to make and print the type. As it was discovered how to make metal stronger, paper smoother, and ink blacker, so the design of typefaces could, in turn, become finer and technically more demanding. Ad the means of type production and printing became more sophisticated, so type designers feel it appropriate to design typefaces that drew less and less on traditional inspirations, such as hand-written and stone-carved letterforms. Prior to the Industrial Revolution in the later 18th Century, only three styles of type design represented key developments of a slow, but important evolution; these being old style, transitional, and modern.

Old style represents the earliest roman typefaces, its distinguishing characteristics include the emphasis upon maintaining a distinctive hand-written quality; a modulated line with the width consistently varying with the direction of the line and the whole character set at a distinct angle. These characteristics, most easily recognized in the lowercase letters, reflect the form that is produced by a broad-nibbed pen held in the right hand. Old style text faces like Bookman, Garamond, Platin, and Janson, are still considered to be among the most readable ever designed and therefore, are commonly used in publications where an abundance of continuous text is necessary. The essential humanistic qualities of this type style (a sense of rhythem, strong horizontal stress, with a flowing, easy interaction between chacters) are the same qualities strived for in contemporary typeface designs.

Jury, David. About Face: Reviving the Rules of Typography. Switzerland: RotoVision, 2004. Print.

Word Count: 1,182

Alexander Phemister

Born in Edinburgh, Alexander Phemister (1829-94) showed an early aptitude for designing letters. He was apprenticed to the famous Edinburgh punchcutter William Grandison. At the age of 23, he attracted the attention of the Edinburgh typefounders Miller Richarach, with whom he cut several series of romans, including Old Style. As a type it was widely admired and much copied, as it overcame what was considered archaic in Caslon. In 1861, he emigrated to American, where he worked for two years with George Bruce, but it was during this time that he cut Franklin Old Stlye, a recut of his 1860 Miller Richard type, for Phelps Dalton foundry. However, it was the Dickinson Type Foundry of Boston that he spent the greatest part of his career. Phemister’s influence on type development was considerable, the bold face cut to accompany his original Old Style became the inspiration for the popular Bookman types issued initially as Antique No. 310 by the Bruce foundry. Phemister was one of the few punch-cutters of his time who designed and cut his own alphabets. His workmanship was the finest.

Alexander Phemister was active in the revival of oldstyle designs at Miller & Richard in the 1850s. He went to America in 1861, working at the Bruce type foundry for two years, and then for the Dickinson foundry. In 1872 this foundry was ravaged by fire; Phemister was made a partner by its founder Samuel Nelson Dickinson and worked there until retirement in 1891. Phemister was the first man to design the famous Bookman Old style, which has become a lastingly popular "workhorse" design for plain, easy-to-read text, and to some extent for display as well. Phemister designed it in 1860 for the Scottish foundry of Miller & Richard, by thickening the strokes of an oldstyle series. From there on, his design was copied and refined over and over again, starting with the Bruce Type Foundry (Antique No. 310), MacKellar (Oldstyle Antique), Keystone (Oldstyle Antique), Hansen (Stratford Old Style). His design of Bookman was refined at Kinsley/ATF in 1934-1936 by Chauncey H. Griffith. The Bookman story does not end there, but at least, Phemister started it. Numerous implementations of Bookman exist, such as the free URW Bookman L family, and the free extension of the latter family in the TeX-Gyre project, called Bonum (2007). Franklin Old Style, intended to be a modernization of Caslon, was cut in 1863 by Phemister, once of Edinburgh, later of Boston, for Phelps, Dalton & Company. Being more regularized, it has lost the individuality and most of the charm of Caslon, but is a clear, legible face that has had considerable popularity. It was one of the early faces cut by Linotype for book work; the italic has an extreme slant for a slug-machine face, but composes remarkably well. Franklin Old Style is comparable to Binny, Clearcut Oldstyle.

Devroye, Luc. "History of Type." Computational Geometry Lab. School of Computer Science McGill University. Web. 03 Oct. 2010.

Macmillan, Neil. An A-Z of Type Designers. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2006. Print.

Word Count: 520

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