Monday, January 30, 2012

The story behind the type

One of the things I've recently started doing is including a card in each set of personalized stationery that I print with my antique type. The card gives a brief description of the method of printing and the press that I use, and it also includes information on the font that the person selects.

Most of the fonts I have are easily identified, but I have one font that really had me baffled. Last night I finally took a picture of a few of the letters and then turned to the typeface gurus on the awesome letterpress resource, Briar Press.

Within no time I had one reply that it was the font Kabel. But after I posted a photo of a few more letters that were particularly unusual, a rather interesting discussion ensued.

mystery typeface

To make a long story short, the font turns out to be something with the rather boring name of Sans Serif Extrabold Condensed. But it's the story behind the type that I think is interesting.

The font was designed by Sol Hess (1886-1953), who began at Lanston Monotype in 1902, rising to Typographic Manager in 1922. He was particularly adept at expanding type faces into whole families. He completed 85 faces for the Monotype foundry, making him America’s fourth most prolific type designer. This particular font, Sans Serif Extrabold Condensed, was designed in 1930 and is based on the German typeface designer Rudolph Koch’s font, Kabel. Released by the Klingspor foundry in 1927, Kabel was designed to honor the newly completed trans-Atlantic telephone cable.

Is it just me, or do any of you find it fascinating that an entire typeface would be designed to honor a telephone cable?!


  1. I think it's fascinating! And I marvel at the way we can get an answer to nearly any obscure question within minutes, thanks to the friendly internet.

  2. Your site changed over night!!! It looks great! Congrats!!!

  3. Thanks, Billie! :D I still have some work to do, but I think it's a huge improvement, and a loooong time coming!


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