Do you know your Baskerville Old Face from your Gill Sans?

The books in the York Art Gallery collection aren’t all about art and artists; the collection also includes a couple of books on printing and typography.  We take a look at two on the Library shelves.


Metal type (IMG_7893) by Tom Page re-used under a Creative Commons licence

Notes on the selection and use of printing types, together with specimens of type faces [York : Ben Johnson & Co. 1921?]

This was written and printed by York printers Ben Johnson & Co whose head office and factory was on Micklegate.  Along with notes on the use of printing types, there are also pages and pages of specimens of different typefaces and borders and ornaments. The images below are typical page spreads, showing Caslon and Jenson Old Style (which are still in use today).


Images taken from Notes on the selection and use of printing types, together with specimens of typefaces

The book is available in the Library’s Special Collections section.

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A psychological study of typography Burt, Cyril, 1883-1971 [Cambridge : University Press 1959]

This book has an introduction by Stanley Morison.  A British typographer, designer and historian of printing, Morison was one of the most influential type-designers in the 20th century having commissioned the widely used Times New Roman typeface.

This is Times New Roman. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog.

If you're interested in all things typographical, then you may have already heard of Eric Gill (1882-1940), the sculptor and typographer who invented the typeface Gill Sans.

Gill Sans by Anthony Starks re-used under a Creative Commons licence
Created in 1926, the font had immediate success when London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) adopted it for all their timetables, posters and publicity material. Later it was taken up across all of British Rail, and Penguin Books also used the font for their front covers.  More recently, the BBC has used it in their logo.

For more information on Eric Gill’s work with type see his An essay on typography [London : J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 1936]. For other books about his sculpture visit LG 0.942 GIL on the Library shelves.

Further reading:


  • Spare a thought for the creator of the much-maligned Comic Sans type. According to one report, the social media giant Twitter devotes its greatest server space to complaints about airlines, followed by gripes about Comic Sans (in third are, gratifyingly, complaints about Justin Bieber). Its designer, Vincent Connare, stands by his creation however. You can read about its genesis here:
  • Like it or hate it, Comic Sans is a cultural phenomenon. In his 2011 book Just my type: a book about fonts [London : Profile Books 2011] Simon Garfield devotes his whole first chapter to it. 

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