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Lectures & Salons

Reading Type Specimens: From Cicero to Spoonie Diddel, Ladies Cicerone

with Paul Shaw

Uncle Sam is Some Pumki! No more shall copy bad perplex my brain!

  • Date
  • Time
  • What Live at the Archive
  • Where Onsite at Letterform Archive and Recorded*

There is more to the texts of type specimens than the ubiquitous "Quousque tandem abutere…" of Cicero’s first oration against Catiline. Careful reading of type specimens, especially those of the nineteenth century, reveals widespread patriotism, jingoism, and cultural chauvinism; historical and literary allusions; references to topical events; wordplay, sophomoric humor, and parody; and bald self-promotion. Unfortunately, they also contain racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments. In sum, type specimens are more than just a collection of pretty faces. They are a window into the attitudes and concerns of the past. This particular event will focus on nineteenth-century American type specimens.

Please join Paul Shaw Live at the Archive for refreshments between 5:30 and 6:30pm. Paul’s presentation will begin promptly at 6:30pm, followed by Q&A.

* This event will not be streamed live. After it concludes, all registrants will receive a link to the video recording.

Paul Shaw

Paul Shaw is a calligrapher, lettering artist, type designer typographer, graphic designer, design educator, and design historian. He is the author of Helvetica and the New York Subway System and Revival Type, the co-author of Blackletter: Type and National Identity, and the editor of The Eternal Letter. His blog The Definitive Dwiggins is the last word on W.A. Dwiggins. Paul led or co-led 12 Legacy of Letters tours and workshops from 1997 to 2023. Since 2005 he has led over 100 lettering walks in 18 cities in North America and Italy. He has organized 21 Letterforms Study Group sessions since November 2022. Currently he is working on a book about type specimens and discovering extensive new information on the minor English typefounder Louis John Pouchée.

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