Monday, 7 November 2011

historical type 19th century advertising boom

So I have decided to look at the 19th century and its massive boom in advertising, and the typefaces that were created in this century. 
I came across this interesting part of the history of type whilst researching the Rockwell typeface. I started to look at inspiration and similar typefaces and came across Clarendon a popular typeface created in middle of 19th century.
Looking for examples of design that used this typeface to get a personal understanding of its applications. I came across a illustration of the bill posters, pasted on top of each-other, fighting for a position to grab the public attention.,r:5,s:0&tx=102&ty=70&biw=1626&bih=853

The Victorian era was the period in which fly poster typography emerged depicted in the illustration above. The large amount of colour in combination with large font sizes were created from movable metal type. As well as being made from wood, this was used to create the two-coloured typefaces. I would imagine this would be specific to the '3D' styled type seen on the 'Vauxhall' poster to create the drop shadow. 

As I understand the technologies in movable metal type had allowed for companies to look at advertising with more ease and less cost. This is where competitive advertising started to evolve in the streets of London, through multiple companies, events, shows, plays etc. Fighting for a spot to advertise and promote themselves. Slab serif typefaces were popular being legible and recognizable, the type was simple and was often set at a large scale to grab attention. 

Punch Cuts, The Modern Page, 1843 by Nick Shinn

Its proving difficult to to find any facts at all, either online or in the library relating to Victorian typography or advertisement containing facts about the techniques or popularity in design through out the century. So I have searched for a typographic timeline hoping this will give me the names of the typefaces used. Then for a second stage of research I will find some examples of the posters and discuss the design elements. 

Type timeline segment from the 19th century:

1803 Robert Thorne design the first Fat Face.
1815 Vincent Figgins design first slab-serif typeface.
1816 William Caslon IV design first sans serif typeface.
1845 Robert Besley designs the first Clarendon.

Fat Face/ Fat Face Roman: 

Designed by William Thorne: 1820 (Robert Thorne) created the typefaces the company was then brought by William Thorowgood in 1820 after Robert Thornes death. The initial information sourced from '' is in conflict with the information from '' I would suggest that '100types' have got confused when researching there information and have mixed the two names together. 
So to summarize Robert Thorne was the creator of Fat Face founding the style in 1801. 
William Thorowgood then took over the company in 1820.

Fat Face was the first typeface created for advertising. Its key features are vertical stresses and hairline serifs, the structure of the typeface has thick main body, the ascenders, descenders,bowl etc. are thick in width, the serifs and connecting strokes are thin hairlines and bracketed. 
The typeface is legible, it has a character about it, having a victorian quality it recognizable and loud. Fat Face Roman does exactly what it was designed for grabbing peoples attention, especially at the time of its creation it must of stood out from the crowd, being so different from other typefaces allowed it to be dominant in the busy streets in comparison with any competition. 
The typeface was used in the new urban and industrial areas of London, created for the purpose of advertising it was used on posters and hoardings.,r:2,s:0&biw=888&bih=858

Todays current equivalent is 'MT Falstaff'. I will be looking at using a typeface similar to this in my post card design, the create a sense of history in the victorian era.

Egyptian/ Slab serif Typface 1817:

Designed by Vincent Figgins. The slab serif has a low contrast, design of uniform stroke.

Antique was releases by Figgins in 1825.
Modern font equivalent : Egiziano Black

Egiziano Black

The anatomy of this typeface is chunky, thick and bold used for headlines in the diameter of the serifs matches the thickness of the main body. There stroke lines on the loops, tail etc. are still mimicking in a sense hand rendered designs, thin a certain point, these elements seem to change in width as they would with a quill. The typeface of course would be produced commercially by machine and the classic slab serif is recognizable with almost monospaced qualities that are clearly evident in the upper casing. 
Figgins also created the Monotype Ionic typeface, this became used for body text by the news paper industry, designed 1821 it was the model typeface in the 20th century. 

Monotype Ionic

Sans Serif: 

William Caslon IV created the Caslon Sans Serif alphabet.
This was the very first sans serif created, its is categorized as a Sans Serif Grosteque. Its has vertical stress and clearly is the inspiration for later typefaces such as Gill sans. 
The upper case titling face is thought to be cut from sign writers block letters in 1812, the simplicity of this allows for easy legibility. It appeared in Caslons published it in 1816 where it has been categorized as 'English two line egyptian'. 
When examining the structure of the Caslons Sans Serif you can the massive leap to this simple new cut of letters from the old style of mimicking hand writing.

IMPORTANT: erroneously categorised (Caslon put his own typeface in the wrong category).

Robert Besley designed original Clarendon in 1845
It has been described in the 'Letter Information. The anatomy of type. By Joep Pohlen.' As suggestion an influence of Rockwell this original version of Clarendon by Besley has some very similar design qualities that we recognise in Rockwell unlike the information above those sources didn't clearly highlight all facts such as Eidenbenz re-developed the typeface in the 1950s. 
These are some examples of the original design of Clarendon in the late 19th 

Clarendon (BT) 

Victorian posters:
I have found a couple fantastic examples of the Victorian typography.

This is poster created for advertising Oxbridge Fair 1878. Typically with all examples of the Victorian era advertisements there is a mixture of different type faces. The use of large scale type and bold slab serifs in combination with the mixture of black and red, makes the image really yell at the audience. 
The Oxbridge uses Antique with a drop shadow, this is used multiple times in the poster, 'fair' again is  the Antique typeface. The poster also uses Caslon's English two line Egyptian and Thorne's Fat Face Roman. This poster uses classic strong contrasting colours and a mixture of Victorian typefaces to create a poster with the intent of yelling louder than its competitors. 
The poster is really busy and overcrowded with information but is typical of 19th century design.

This poster again is a brilliant example of the communication methods of the 19th century. Key points are highlighted with large scale type, this draws the attention of the viewer to read the key promotional points such as price.
Again there a mixture of typefaces, and sizes the designer has used Fat Face Roman & Antique typefaces. The poster has been printed on basic paper in basic black its a low cost poster, probably so to be produced on a mass scale. 

egyptian or slab-serif

This another example from a 1853 Newspaper demonstrating the trend of using  multiple typefaces to grab peoples attention. The example again contains the commonly seen slab serifs used thought out the 19th century. However the newspaper has also used form of black which adds element of imperialism a gesture to a classic style reinforces ideas of British qualities. What I mean by this is though newspaper may be sold to the masses it aims at appealing to upper class and offering a sense of higher status for the general public, much like Ralph Loren selling a perfume in a supermarket, where they wouldn't sell a £150 jumper. This is done one to maximize profits but offers the general population a slice of the 'wealthy' lifestyle.

The printing technology:

Lithography is a mechanical planographic process (printing from a flat surface, or plane) Water absorbing slabs were cut and made smooth the design would then be drawn into them.  Greasy ink would be applied to the design areas and the remaining are would be treated with gum arabic, the image would be transferred to paper pressed onto to the stone.
Mezzotint methods made printing images and text easier and with equal quality.
Powered lithograph machines were introduced in 1851, this is when metal plates started to emerge and replace limestone slabs. 
The first half of 19th century saw the boom in advertising typefaces inspired styles used by sign writers, British foundries led the way creating new types, this lead to positive use and massive amounts of competition. The designs of the posters can be seen as over crowded. 
Though metal type available the first type-casting machine didn't exist until 1838 before this it was created using a ladle into a mould. 
The Victorian age saw inks starting to be created through chemical combinations, where as before they had been produced from organic resources. 
The paper came from a French patented in 1799 the machine was used from 1803. In1850 Friedrich Keller created a machine that produced paper from pulp, however it wasn't of good quality. 1853 Hugh Burgess developed the production of paper from pulp by using chemicals to digest the paper, different chemicals improved this technology through out the century.


After researching this time period in history type where it was applied to the massive boom in advertising I will create a postcard, that features some of the design elements such as the mixture of typefaces, sizes and graphics seen in the Victorian designs. I have an idea how I can incorporate these classic features but also adding my own style to the piece. I have tried to explore this period though there wasn't any easy information I have tried to put together some information about the typefaces used in the period and show some examples of where and how they were used, to give an understanding of the development in typographic applications to produce effective advertisement on a mass scale. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This was very helpful to me; thank you for sharing your findings.

  3. Thanks for an interesting site.
    Where can one by Victorian print posters please?

  4. don't know if the comment posted, so here's take two. Excellent work. Any chance you know the name of the font traditionally used for Circus and other advertising? The one we now call Stagecoach and other names.

  5. Thanks for sharing knowledge and valuable information about graphic designing.
    Graphic designing company in Indore