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steve mehallo October 2, 2020
amanda at 27:34
it looks like a wes anderson illustration! 7 months ago Reply
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THE MEHALLO BLOG. BETA. • AUGUST 2009 the great times new roman controversy
I met him several years ago at one of the TypeCons. And as someone who just started teaching a History of Graphic Design course, I had to spend some time picking his brain. How often does one meet the former co-director of typographic development at Mergentha- ler Linotype – one of the guys who greenlit Helvetica – and more important, someone who could help me learn to pronounce some of the names in the various design history books I’d been collecting.
There haven’t been many controversies in the type world. Except for the Garamond thing.
the garamond scandal Turned out that early 20th Century Garamond revivals were not actual Garamonds, but based on a mislabeled specimen taken from the French Imprimerie Nationale. And in 1926, it was a woman going under the pen name Paul Beaujon who blew the lid off of this rather large mishap. (And the enigmatic force behind Beaujon, Beatrice Warde (1900-1969), can be found today on Twitter. Of course.)
the major players Typography was Big Business in the early 20th century. The major players were Mergenthaler Linotype, Monotype and American Type Found- ers [ATF]. Work from The Big Three fed where Bitstream and Adobe went in the 1980s. The types we use today are just the grandchildren of work tackled 80 – 100 years ago. Digital revivals of revivals are Big Business today.
Which brings me back to Mike Parker and Times New Roman.
When we spoke, he broke out for me a class struggle story – about a factory worker at Brit- ish Monotype and the elite Stanley Morison, typographical advisor to the Monotype Corpo- ration, Cambridge University Press – and the driving force behind Times New Roman.
Times New Roman was developed under Mori- son’s direction (illustrated by Victor Lardent) for The Times of London – released in 1932 – and is arguably the most-used font family in the world today. Like it or not (I do like it; especially the lowercase e), it’s everywhere it can possibly be.
I scribbled my notes, but didn’t have more than that. He referenced a print journal article that I know I’d never find. But I’m not above reporting on hearsay.
history: not very accurate The short conversation has been part of the Early 20th century type design portion of my history class for a few years now. Hell, history is all about hearsay. Whatever was written down, biases, ego and the lot. Is any of it even true? I just report on what I can find. If one can prove otherwise, great. Love it.
Donald Sutherland IS Johannes Gutenberg!
Even ‘The Father of Printing’ Johannes Guten- berg’s story is unsubstantiated. And if there ever is a movie made from the piles of oft-roman- ticized conjecture, I think Donald Sutherland should play Gutenberg. He seems to fit with the historical composite. With Philip Seymour Hoff-
Mike Parker’s been in the news lately, mostly about the origins of Times New Roman.
man as Johann Fust. Or Johannes Fust, depend- ing on what source you’re looking at.
(We don’t even know if Gutenberg even existed. That’s the latest hoo ha I’ve heard somewhere. He may actually have been a composite. Like Betty Crocker.)
Philip Seymour Hofmann as the conniving Johann Fust!
Jeremy Piven as the squeaky clean Peter Schöffer!
And Miley Cyrus as Beth
So where was I? Oh yeah. Mike Parker.
parker’s take on number 54 Earlier this year, Mike released his version of Times New Roman; named for the man who may have been the one with the plan. William ‘Starling’ Burgess had a brief flirtation with ty- pography before turning to aviation. Two guys, the Wright Brothers, dazzled him with some floating invention thing they were working on; and in working for them, his career went.
But it was Burgess’ seminal lettering from 1904 – catalogued ‘Number 54’ in the archives – that may have evolved into the Times types. One story goes that development of Times New Roman may have been more difficult than expected; as the project grew out of a boast, and Morison was charged with not only developing a new typeface for The Times, high legibility and conservation of space were part of the order.
And unfortunately, in all this, there’s just not enough evidence to go on.
But here’s writer Joel Alas’ details of the The Great Times New Roman Controversy, posted last week in the Financial Times. And Mike Parker’s Starling fonts can be purchased thru Font Bureau.
Is it all true? Depends on what you believe. That’s the fun part of history, just never know what is real or what role Miley Cyrus will end up playing in all this.Photo composition by mehallo for Monotype, 2000
THE FINANCIAL TIMES • AUGUST 2009 The history of the Times New Roman typeface
The release of Starling in June presented not just a new font, but a challenge to the ac- cepted history of one of the most widely used typefaces in the world. And after a lifetime spent in typography, Parker was well aware of the controversy he was getting involved in: typography may present a genteel exterior, but it’s an art form punctuated by bitter rivalries and rampant plagiarism.
The case that Parker makes about the real origins of Times New Roman stands on nar- row foundations. The sole piece of surviving evidence for his version of history is a brass pattern plate bearing a large capital letter B. He holds the plate up to show the familiar form of the letter, its characteristic curves and serifs. The point, he says, is that such pattern plates represent a technology that was not used after 1915. The creation of Times New Roman was announced in 1932.
Eighty-year-old Parker is one of the world’s leading experts on type. As the head of typo- graphic development at the once-formidable Mergenthaler Linotype company in New York from the 1950s to the 1970s, he had enormous influence over the fonts available to the Ameri- can public. It was his decision to introduce Helvetica to the Linotype library, creating a design legacy still evident today. But ever since he received an invitation in the early 1990s to view some interesting archival material, Parker’s time has been consumed by the hunt to solve a mystery.
The invitation came from the late Gerald Giampa, an eccentric Canadian master printer who, in 1987, purchased the remnants of the Lanston Monotype company. Giampa delved into the company’s archive, where he claimed to have unearthed documents that refer to a typeface known only as Number 54 – the font, Parker says, that we now know as Times New Roman. Except that these documents dated from 1904, and bore the name of a different designer: William Starling Burgess.
“Gerald sent me some pattern plates and said, ‘Do these look familiar?’” Parker said. “I said ‘yes, they’re Times Roman.’ He said, ‘No, they’re much earlier than that.’”
William Starling Burgess was born into a wealthy Boston family in 1878, and is best remembered as an accomplished naval and aeronautical designer, the builder of yachts for the America’s Cup and aircraft for the Wright brothers. But before embarking on his stellar career on wind and water, Parker believes Burgess had a short but brilliant dalliance with typography.
When Giampa started investigating the Lanston Monotype archives, he claimed to have found correspondence between the company and Burgess, who, in 1904, ordered the manufac- ture of a font series to be used for company documents at his shipyard in Marblehead, Mas- sachusetts. But before Lanston Monotype could complete the order, Giampa claimed, Burgess witnessed an early flight by the Wright brothers and abandoned his interest in type in favour of aviation. His original drawings were filed at the company as Number 54, and remained on a shelf for years.
Parker says that in 1921 Lanston Monotype tried unsuccessfully to sell the Number 54 font to a fledgling news magazine called Time. Sometime after that, Burgess’s drawings fell into the hands of Stanley Morison, a type consultant at the Monotype Corporation in Britain, by way of Frank Hinman Pierpont, an American who managed that company’s factory in Surrey and who made a career out of reviving old fonts.
In the early 1900s typography was progressing rapidly, but newspapers were failing to keep up with the advances. The Times of London used a chunky serif font that was hard on the eye and wasteful of ink and paper. When Morison criticised The Times for its typeface in 1929, the newspaper challenged him to come up with something better. In his writings, Morison says
In his apartment overlooking the fishing docks of Portland, Maine, Mike Parker was putting the final touches to a font, thinning a few obstinate serifs and thickening some delicate stems. The typeface he was working on was instantly recog- nisable, even to those with no interest in letterform. It looked just like Times New Roman. Yet on Parker’s sample sheet it was marked by a different name. “I call it Starling, after the man who originally drew it,” he said.
that he looked to old-style fonts for inspira- tion, and set upon modifying a 16th-century typeface called Plantin. A sketch sheet was handed to Victor Lardent, a staff illustrator for The Times, who finalised the design. The Morison-Lardent drawings were accepted, and on October 3 1932, The Times went to print with its proud new typeface.
Other accounts, however, suggest that the re- design was far more challenging than Morison admitted. He went through countless failed prototypes and even sought help from outside designers, including the eminent typographer Harry Carter, who sketched some proposals. Years later Carter’s son, Matthew, himself a celebrated typographer, found those rejected sketch sheets languishing in his father’s sock drawer. “When I asked what happened to them, my father just laughed and said Morison had never said a word in reply,” Carter recalls. Parker believes he knows why Harry Carter’s drawings were turned down – Morison had by then been supplied with the pilfered designs of Number 54 by Pierpont. Precisely how Pierpont came upon them, Parker cannot say, but he stands by the theory. “Morison knew no bounds,” says Parker, who has numerous anec- dotes about their many encounters that paint a picture of a cunning and devious man. Morison never took credit for designing the font himself, but claims only to have “excogitated” it. Years after its release, he wrote of the only font that he is credited with designing: “It has the merit of not looking as if it had been designed by somebody in particular.”
William Starling Burgess
To date, no one but Giampa and Parker have claimed to have seen most of the evidence that supports the Burgess story. Sadly, no one else is likely to have the chance to verify their claims. In 1918, a fire tore through Burgess’s shipyard, incinerating any documents that might have shed light on his activities during 1904, when Parker suggests he made the original drawings for the new font. On the other side of the Atlantic, a bomb blast near the London offices of Monotype Corporation in 1941 destroyed much information about Morison’s activities during the redesign of The Times’s typeface.
All that remained were the Lanston Monotype archives in Giampa’s possession, until they too met with disaster. In January 2000, Giampa’s house was flooded, and a century’s worth of printing history was lost. “The bulk of the files ended up in a dumpster,” Giampa said. There is a second archive of Lanston Monotype draw- ings at The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, but it has been placed off limits. Parker visited The Smithsonian in 1996 and took cop- ies of the Number 54 drawings, upon which he based his Starling font. Today, the originals of those drawings are in the Smithsonian’s archival warehouse, which is contaminated by asbestos and lead, and has been closed indefinitely.
In typography, there is no greater insult than the accusation of plagiarism. When Parker began circulating his theory about the origins of Times New Roman, he was howled down by a chorus of critics. British author Nicolas Barker, Morison’s biographer, labelled it “a misguided attempt to adjust history”. “It’s the creation of Mike Parker, who did it partly as a practical joke, and partly to help his friend Gerald Giampa,” Barker says. “Giampa was the potential beneficiary. Had he been able to demonstrate that the design had predated the
UK version, there was the possibility to establish a patentable right to the designs, at least in the USA. That’s the only logical reason I can see for them wanting to produce this otherwise rather childish joke.” Parker responds that Barker is a “friend of Monotype” who has written many books and articles about Morison.
Barker and others say Parker has failed to produce any conclusive proof of his theory, but only colourful speculation based on unseen documents. Other critics include Jim Rimmer, a Canadian type craftsman based near Vancou- ver, who labelled Giampa a “pathological liar”. Rimmer said he had known Giampa for 35 years and called him a “prankster” who created the Burgess story “as a way of making himself look important”.
Matthew Carter, designer of the fonts Georgia and Verdana, is among those who believe the Burgess theory is “very plausible”. He has strong memories of Stanley Morison, a man he believes would stoop to such levels of decep- tion. “I knew Morison and the company [British Monotype], and they were the most arrogant organisation in their heyday,” Carter says. “Morison was a very complex character. He liked playing jokes. He was interested in power, and he liked working behind the scenes. I can believe – though I still don’t know the truth – that he would have enjoyed taking part in a ruse like this.”
The Times newspaper itself has begun accept- ing the possibility of an alternative history to its famous font. In 2007, the newspaper stated that Times New Roman was designed by Stanley Morison, Victor Lardent “and possibly Starling Burgess”.
Before his death in late June, Giampa defended his reputation. From behind the counter of an antique and curiosity shop on the Vancouver
waterfront, the colourful Canadian printer said he had “absolutely not” fabricated the Burgess story, but that it was based on the documents and pattern plates he had unearthed in the Lanston Monotype archive. All of those records were lost in the flood on Prince Edward Island, he said, aside from one pattern plate in the possession of Mike Parker. It is upon this pat- tern plate that the entire Burgess theory now hangs.
Along with the Starling roman font, Parker has released a matching italic series. He says that in 1904 Burgess drew just five letters of an italic to accompany Number 54 before abandoning typography for aviation. Parker has taken it upon himself to finish the job and has spent the past few years carefully drawing the graceful slanted figures of a rich italic. “Morison’s was a dog of an italic,” he says of the existing Times New Roman version, which he accepts was a Morison-Lardent creation. “It didn’t match the roman at all. It was a standard Monotype italic.” Now Parker has set out to rectify this by giving the world’s most popular font – no matter its name or creator – a deserv- ing italic. Aside from the five inspirational characters, this is wholly Parker’s own work and, remarkably, it is his maiden typographic creation. Throughout his decades in the industry, Parker remained a creative adminis- trator and researcher but was never himself a typographer.
And this, perhaps, is the real force behind Parker’s enthusiasm for the William Starling Burgess story: it has given him, for the first time, the chance to create a font of his own.
This article was reprinted for educational purposes and is copyright © 2009 by The Financial Times Limited
Mike Parker’s Starling, left
The surviving brass pattern plate at the centre of the font controversy. below
Mike Parker’s belief that the typeface that became Times New Roman was actually designed in 1904 by Starling Burgess was presented 15 tears ago in the American Printing History Association’s journal Printing History (issue no 31/32, 1994). A “Rebuttal” appeared in the journal three or four years later (issue no 37, not conventionally dated but © 1998): in it Nicolas Barker convincingly shows Parker’s evidence for the offer of the typeface to Time magazine to be spurious, and all but one of the thirteen (not five) characters Parker presented of “Burgess Italic?” in his article were identified by their designer himself as much more recent designs that Gerald Giampa had commis- sioned!
In addition to the capital B illustrated in Joel Alas’s article, several more of the pattern letters in question were shown by Parker in 1994, but those were all presumably lost in the 2000 flood (though you’d have thought that metal pattern letters should be fairly safe from that kind of disaster). Alas described this surviving pattern letter as brass, although it looked more like copper. Nowhere in the 1994 article did Parker claim that pattern letters of that kind were not made after 1915. He dis- tinguished between “characteristic two-piece copper patterns” and “one-piece brass patterns,” but the Rebuttal left it doubtful whether brass ones were ever original.
According to Parker’s theory, Starling Burgess designed a type- face for which the American Lanston Monotype Company assigned the series number 54 in 1904 (and numbers 55 and 57 for eventual companion italic and bold alphabets); this number had been stamped on all the patterns illustrated in his article, together with the much higher number 362, the series number of Times Roman when Lanston Monotype started punching matrices for the typeface in 1961. But it seemed clear, as was pointed out in the Rebuttal, that the “54” on at least most of those patterns was more recently stamped than the “362.” The assignment of the series number “57” by Lanston Monotype to Times Bold when they introduced it into the United States remains puzzling.
Parker referred in 1994 to a biography of Burgess as “nearing completion” and expected it to mention his putative venture into type design. But it did not seem to have appeared by the time of the Rebuttal, and I have not been able to trace such a book. Perhaps a surviving wife thwarted the project?
Posted comment/response • SEPTEMBER 2009
The common wisdom on the origin of Times New Roman – that Stanley Morison commissioned a typeface based on Mono- type Plantin – is referred to in Alas’s article and elaborated in both Parker’s article in Printing History and the Rebuttal. In an article in the Journal of Typographic Research in 1970 (Vol. IV, No 3), however, Allen Hutt, an authority on and practitioner of British newspaper design, claims to have been the first to notice the close relationship between Times New Roman and Monotype Plantin. John Dreyfus at the (U.K.) Monotype Cor- poration was happy to lecture on Stanley Morison and Victor Lardent as progenitors of Times New Roman after that date, but did he never do so earlier? The alphabet lengths and character- widths of Plantin and Times New Roman are identical in the 24-point size shown in Allen Hutt’s article, though not, in fact, in the composition sizes: the coincidence would nonetheless be remarkable if one face were not derived from the other – unless both faces had to conform to the procrustean “C” matrix-case layout that (as Parker pointed out in 1994) all Monotype faces had to conform to before 1909; but Monotype Plantin did not come out till 1913. Americans would perhaps have had less opportunity to be aware of the similarity, since no version of Monotype Plantin was available in the United States in 1970, and Times Roman itself was less familiar there.
I can’t believe that Parker described Times italic as a “dog”; and it’s nothing like a “standard Monotype italic” – it’s much more like a sloped roman in its serifed s and in most of its meanline terminals (most remarkably the one on the k, which must have been unique for a text face at that time), though preserving the conventional italic treatment of all the lowercase foot terminals. Times italic is in fact an inspired typeface design. Parker is much more likely to have referred to Times Bold in such terms, as he did so in a brief conversation with me in 1997, in which we agreed that Times Bold (roman) had effectively nothing in common with the normal-weight face.
If a good matching bold typeface is needed to go with Times New Roman, however, Times Semi-Bold has long been avail- able.
The difference in the sharpness of the serifs in “Regulations” in Alas’s display is quite irrelevant in text sizes, in which all points as sharp as those, proportionately reduced, would disappear.
steve mehallo October 1, 2020
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artnm305: 20th century type
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