Saturday, June 02, 2012

Victorian Typography

As fashions go, it is possible that Victorian typography is about the most out-of-fashion design style one can imagine. Granted, within the fairly niche market of Steampunk there is a glance back to Victorian letters in design inspired by or for the genre, but even the most ardent Steampunkers (should there be a better nomenclature than that?) would admit it isn't exactly a mass participation activity. Characterised by multiple fonts on the same page, often open-faced or three dimensional fonts with gothic flourishes and blots, it's clearly not for the typographically faint-hearted. But when I come across such over-the-top and yet wonderful examples as these, I'm moved to say it might be time to engineer a revival. Perhaps Callum James Books should look into publishing a Victorian Typography Source Book... stop me, someone, please, that way lies madness...

These all came from a single disbound (but originally bound together) collection of sheet music. It's not the first such collection I've had in my study here and I have wondered before why there isn't more by way of a collectors' market for material like this. Largely, I'm sure, it would be for the way it looks: typography aside, some of the best Victorian lithography seems to have been reserved for the covers of sheet music.

1 comment:

Art Durkee said...

You might enjoy knowing about the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, in Wisconsin.

I've been there myself, and thoroughly enjoyed looking at the 1.5 million type blocks, many of them of the Victorian era you describe here.

I have to say, as a book designer and typographer myself, the Victorian usage of multiple faces on the page is usually a lot more than I can take from a design. But it does have a certain panache, and Steampunk designers could at least find inspiration there, if not imitation. I admit that I have done a Halloween poster with 9 coordinated horror-themed typefaces on it, so perhaps I'm not one to talk. LOL

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