Cover image
Cover image

The eternal letter : two millennia of the classical Roman capital / edited by Paul Shaw


viii, 258 pages : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 30 cm
Paul Shaw
MIT Press
A generously illustrated examination of the enduring influence of and many variations on the classical Roman capital letter. Includes bibliographical references.

"The fiftieth anniversary of Helvetica, the most famous of all sans serif typefaces, was celebrated with an excitement unusual in the staid world of typography and culminated in the release of the first movie ever made starring a typeface. Yet Helvetica's fifty-year milestone pales in comparison with the two thousandth anniversary in 2014 of Trajan's Column and its famous inscription--the preeminent illustration of the classical Roman capital letter. For, despite the modern ascendance of the sans serif, serif typefaces, most notably Times Roman, still dominate printed matter and retain a strong presence in screen-based communication. The Eternal Letter is a lavishly illustrated examination of the enduring influence of, and many variations on, the classical Roman capital letter. The Eternal Letter offers a series of essays by some of the most highly regarded practitioners in the fields of typography, lettering, and stone carving. They discuss the subtleties of the classical Roman capital letter itself, different iterations of it over the years, and the work of famous typographers and craftsmen. The essays cover such topics as efforts to calculate a geometric formulation of the Trajan letters; the recalculation of their proportions by early typefounders; the development and astonishing popularity of Adobe Trajan; type and letter designs by Father Edward M. Catich, Frederic W. Goudy, Eric Gill, Jan van Krimpen, Hermann Zapf, Matthew Carter, and others; the influence of Trajan in Russia; and three generations of lettercarvers at the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island. Essays about modern typefaces--including Matinia, Senatus, and Penumbra--are contributed by the designers of these typefaces."--Publisher's description.

Contents: The eternal letter : the fluctuating fortunes of the classical Roman capital / Paul Shaw -- Defining the classical Roman capital / Paul Shaw -- Father Edward M. Catich and the Trajan inscription / Paul Shaw -- The genetrix / Father Edward M. Catich -- The Trajan secrets / Tom Perkins -- Walter Kaech, craftsman / Jost Hochuli -- On the origin of the capital proportions in Roman type / Frank E. Blokland -- Felice Feliciano and the inscriptions on the Macello of Verona / James Mosley -- The Baroque set / Garrett Boge -- Goudy's inscriptional letters / Steve Matteson -- Eric Gill's capital letter / Ewan Clayton -- Jan van Krimpen and Roman capitals / Martin Majoor -- Hermann Zapf's Roman capitals : an appreciation / Paul Shaw -- The Trajan letter in Russia / Maxim Zhukov -- Gill's legacy / Ewan Clayton -- Straight, no chaser : the work of Michael Harvey / Paul Shaw -- The John Stevens Shop : three generations of lettercarvers / Richard Kindersley -- Penumbra: the offspring of Trajan and Futura / Lance Hidy -- Father Catich at Reed College / Gregory MacNaughton -- Democratizing the empire: the birth of Adobe Trajan / Scott-Martin Kosofsky -- Trajan revised redux / Paul Shaw, Maxim Zhukov, and Gerry Leonidas -- Artist of the written word / Paul Shaw -- The origins of Senatus / Werner Schneider with Dan Reynolds -- Mantinia / Matthew Carter -- Requiem : a true renaissance letter / Jonathan Hoefler -- Waters titling / Julian Waters -- Typefaces with classical Roman influences : 1900-2012 -- Trajan at the movies / Yves Peters -- Learning from chairs / Cyrus Highsmith -- Census of Trajan inscription reproductions -- Selected collections of Roman inscriptions -- Further reading on Roman capitals -- Recording inscriptions : methods and tips.