TypograFriday: Shahn

shahn_1963cover2

One of my favorite artists ever is Ben Shahn; his linework was terrific, his color sense really interesting, his sociopolitics inspirational, and his handlettering fantastic.

Above and below, a few scans from the book November Twenty Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three, a Wendell Berry poem about JFK’s death which he illustrated and lettered. I’ve tried lettering with jaunty mixes of thicks and thins like this before, and let me tell you, it’s super tough to keep it from not looking totally goofy. That he set type as serious as a poem about national grieving using it is astonishing.

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A few other of his pieces which incorporate his fantastic lettering:

shahn_farmsale

Public Sale, 1956

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Parade for Repeal, 1933

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Maimonides, 1954

Teach thy tongue to say I do not know and thou shalt progress? Such a good quote.

benfolk

For those of you who are font-hungry, there are (at least) two fonts on the market which are based on Shahn’s lettering: Bensfolk from Haroldsfonts and thorny tuscan Rendevous GRP from Grype. Although both are pretty nice, the supersmart Opentype version with dozens of smart contextual alternates that rotate in… is sadly yet to be made. You’ll just have to use a pen, folks.

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TypograFriday: Tuscans

friscoantiquedisplayrendezvousleking
figginstuscanlozamissionary
goldstandardoperahouse-1gringotuscan
de-louisvilleoldviccatacumba

Did you like the giant S from French Vogue Kirsten pointed out a few weeks ago? Us too!

This style of type is called Tuscan and it originated well before printing. Tuscans can be identified by bifurcation of the terminals — some have speculated that the bifurcation in the earliest examples may have been a typographic equivalent of the sign of the fish, an attempt to signify Christian faith in the letters themselves. Tuscans really hit their stride in the 19th century, during the age of handbills (each trying to outdo one another in typographic excess). This is when the form started mutating like crazy: the ends trifurcated, bulges or spikes erupted mid-stem, letters split into two, swashes and flourishes sprouted out.

Tuscans can be extended or condensed, rigid or expressive: some of the newer digital ones are hand-rendered. So versatile a type style, it’s a shame it’s rarely used contemporarily outside of circus- or western- themed work.

Credits & analysis, after the jump. Continue reading TypograFriday: Tuscans