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Clarendon is the name of a slab serif typeface that was released in 1845 by Thorowgood and Co. (or Thorowgood and Besley) of London, a letter foundry often known as the Fann Street Foundry. The original Clarendon design is credited to Robert Besley, a partner in the foundry, and was originally engraved by punchcutter Benjamin Fox, who may also have contributed to its design. Many copies, adaptations and revivals have been released, becoming almost an entire genre of type design.
Clarendon has a bold, solid structure, similar in letter structure to the "modern" serif typefaces popular in the nineteenth century for body text (for instance showing an 'R' with a curled leg, and ball terminals on the 'a' and 'c'), but bolder and with less contrast in stroke weight. Clarendon designs generally have a structure with bracketed serifs, which become larger as they reach the main stroke of the letter. Mitja Miklavčič describes the basic features of Clarendon designs (and ones labelled Ionic, often quite similar) as: "plain and sturdy nature, strong bracketed serifs, vertical stress, large x-height, short ascenders and descenders, typeface with little contrast" and supports Nicolete Gray's description of them as a "cross between the roman [general-purpose body text type] and slab serif model". Gray notes that nineteenth-century Ionic and Clarendon faces have "a definite differentiation between the thick and the thin strokes", unlike some other more geometric slab-serifs.
Slab serif typefaces had become popular in British
Slab serif lettering and typefaces originated in Britain in the early nineteenth century, at a time of rapid development of new, bolder typefaces for posters and commercial printing. Probably the first slab-serif to appear in print was created by the foundry of Vincent Figgins, and given the name “antique”. Others rapidly appeared, using names such as “Ionic” and “Egyptian”, which had also been used as a name for sans-serifs. (At the time typeface names were often adjectives, often with little purpose to their name, although they may have been in this case reference to the “blocky”, geometric structure of ancient architecture. There was limited separation between the name of typefaces and genres; if a font proved popular it would often be pirated and reissued by other foundries under the same name.)
Compared to Figgins' "antique", the Clarendon design uses somewhat less emphatic serifs, which are bracketed rather than solid blocks, that widen as they reach the main stroke of the letter.
Besley's original Clarendon design was quite compressed, unlike most later 'Clarendons' intended for display setting, which are often quite wide. One of the original target markets for Besley's Clarendon design was to act as a bold face within body text, providing a stronger
Besley registered the typeface in 1845 under Britain's Ornamental Designs Act of 1842.
With its growing popularity for display use, new versions often changed these proportions. By around 1874, the Fann Street Foundry (now Reed and Fox) could offer in its specimen book Clarendon designs that were condensed, "thin-faced" (light weight), extended, "distended" (extra-wide) and shaded. Revivals continued in the twentieth century, particularly in the 1950s.
The label "Ionic", originally also used for display faces, has become associated with typefaces with some Clarendon/slab-serif features but intended for body text, following the success of several faces with this name from first
A variety of Clarendon revivals have been made since the original design, often adapting the design to different widths and weights. The original Clarendon design, a quite condensed design, did not feature an italic, and many early Clarendon designs, such as wood type headline faces, have capitals only with no lower-case letters, leaving many options for individual adaptation.
The original Clarendon became the property of
Most hot metal typesetting companies offered some kind of slab serif; Linotype offered it duplexed to a Roman type so that it could be easily switched in for emphasis. The typeface was reworked by
Aldo Novarese drew the Egizio family for Nebiolo, in Turin, Italy. The design included matching italics. David Berlow, of the Font Bureau, released a revival as Belizio in 1998. The Clarendon Text family, with italics inspired by Egizio, was released by Patrick Griffin of Canada Type.
Volta, sold as Fortune in the U.S., a modern view of Clarendon, was designed by
Ray Larabie, of Typodermic, released the Superclarendon family in 2007, using obliques instead of italics. A wide, display-oriented design with small caps and Greek and Cyrillic support, it is bundled with macOS.
In the late nineteenth century the basic Clarendon face was radically altered by foundries in the United States, resulting in the production of the 'French Clarendon' type style, which had enlarged block serifs at top and bottom. This style is also traditionally associated with wild-west printing; it is commonly seen on circus posters and wanted notices in western movies. However, it was actually used in many parts of the world at the time.
The concept, now called as
Intended as attention-grabbing novelty display designs rather than as serious choices for body text, within four years of their introduction the printer Thomas Curson Hansard had described them as 'typographic monstrosities'. Derivatives of this style persisted, and the concept of very thick serifs ultimately merged with the Clarendon genre of type. The advantage of French-Clarendon type was that it allowed very large, eye-catching serifs while the letters remained narrow, suiting the desire of poster-makers for condensed but very bold type. Fine printers were less impressed by it: DeVinne commented in 1902 that "To be hated, it needs but to be seen."
Because of their quirky, unusual design, lighter and hand-drawn versions of the style were popular for uses such as film posters in the 1950s and 60s.
A radically different approach has been that of Trilby by David Jonathan Ross, who has written on the history of the genre. Released by Font Bureau, it is a modernisation reminiscent of Clarendon revivals from the 1950s. It attempts to adapt the style to use in a much wider range of settings, going so far as to be usable for body text.
The following terms have been used for Clarendons and related slab serifs. Common meanings have been added, but they have often not been consistently applied. Many modern writers as a result ignore them and prefer the term slab-serif, providing individual descriptions of the features of specific designs.
- Clarendon - often particularly used to refer to slab-serifs with 'bracketed’ serifs.
- Antique - the first name used for slab-serifs, but in France often used for sans-serifs. Sometimes taken to mean slab-serifs in the nineteenth-century style with Didone letterforms and thick, square slab-serifs.
- Egyptian/Egyptienne - mostly used for slab-serifs generally, although first used by the Caslon Foundry in naming their sans-serif, the first made. Continued to be used as a name for "geometric" slab-serifs appearing in the twentieth century, and so several geometric slab-serifs had Egyptian-themed names, including Memphis, Cairo and Karnak.
- Ionic - in the nineteenth century used as a name for slab-serifs. In the twentieth century this term became used to mean text faces with some Clarendon-style features, because of an influential body text face of this name from Linotype - this followed from previous faces of the same name only slightly bolder than text proportions from Miller & Richard.
Craw Clarendon Bold was used by the United States National Park Service on traffic signs, but has been replaced by NPS Rawlinson Roadway. A heavy bold Clarendon variant was used for the cast brass locomotive nameplates of the Great Western Railway. This was however drawn within the Swindon drawing office, not by a type foundry, and this 'Swindon Egyptian' differed in some aspects, most obviously the numerals used for the cabside numberplates. The typeface is currently used by Public Transport Company (Polish: Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacyjne, abbreviated MPK) in Poznań (Poland) as the typeface of fleet vehicles' numbering, and on trams for displaying the route number.
Versions of Clarendon can be seen in the logotypes of brands such as:
- Japanese corporations Sony, Honda, Tamiya, and Onkyo
- Älvsbyhus, a Swedish house manufacturer
- Dave, a channel on UKTV
- El País, a Spanish newspaper
- Pitchfork, an American online publication
- Ranbaxy, an Indian pharmaceutical company
- Three Twins, an American ice cream company
- Wells Fargo, a financial services company
- The official 1961 Marvel Comics logo
- Some pharmaceutical companies in prescription medicinepackage)
- The Modern face would not have seemed so high in contrast in print at small sizes. (For specimen images of these faces in metal type, see Hutt.)
- Twyman, Michael. "The Bold Idea: The Use of Bold-looking Types in the Nineteenth Century". Journal of the Printing Historical Society. 22 (107–143).
- Mosley, James. "Comments on Typophile thread "Where do bold typefaces come from?"". Typophile. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
For the record, the Clarendon type of the Besley foundry is indeed the first type actually designed as a 'related bold' – that is, made to harmonize in design and align with the roman types it was set with. It was registered in Britain in 1845...but the idea of a 'bold face' goes back much further. Before the launch of Clarendon type printers picked out words in slab-serifs or any other heavy type. In the 18th century they used 'English' or 'Old English' types, which is why they became known as 'black letter'. John Smith says in his Printer's grammar (London, 1755). 'Black Letter … is sometimes used … to serve for matter which the Author would particularly enforce to the reader.'
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The other kind of secondary type, the related bold face, is a twentieth-century creation. Although the use of bold type for emphasis in text began when display advertising became a feature of the family magazines of the mid-nineteenth century, the bold types themselves were Clarendons, Ionics and Antiques quite unrelated to the old styles and moderns used for the text. As late as 1938 the Monotype Recorder, a distinguished British journal of typography, could say, "The 'related bold' is a comparatively new phenomenon in the history of type cutting."
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The zeal that brought in reformed roman types and elegant sans serifs swept out the Cheltenhams and Clarendons from many a progressive composing room, and one felt at the time that the reformation would be permanent. But the inevitable counter-reformation now shows that unprogressive printers who held on to their old-fashioned repertoire were doing the right thing, if for the wrong reasons.
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