Old Top 40

Written by Typographica on May 4, 2005

I know a lot of you are blindly tapping your clicker fingers in boredom without your favorite discussion forum to satisfy your type nerd needs. So I’ve prepared a little game in the spirit of Typophile’s old Type Quiz to keep you occupied. First to answer all five parts of this quiz question gets to ask a new one.

  1. In what year was this bestseller list published?
  2. What foundry or reseller published the list? (Employees of the company in question may not participate — sorry.)
  3. What was the name of the publication in which the list was published?
  4. There is an error in one of the lists. Which font does not match its name?
  5. The designer of the fonts at #1 in the USA list is organizer of a type competition for which the deadline is tomorrow (May 5). Who is the designer and what is the competition?

Top  40


  1. Raph Levien says:

    What year? I’m going to completely randomly guess 1993. The foundry is obviously Adobe (the little “a” signifying “Adobe original” is the giveaway), and I’m going to guess that it was their narrow-format pamphlet. Rockwell is the slab-serif mistakenly printed in Helvetica, and Neville Brody is the famous designer of Industria, now running the FUSE competition.

  2. marc oxborrow says:

    1. Winter 1992
    2. Adobe
    3. Font & Function, an oversize magazine Adobe used to hawk its type and introduce desktop publishers to then-unfamiliar terms like “leading,” “kerning,” etc.
    4. What Raph said (Rockwell)
    5. Neville Brody

    Unfortunately, I’m leaving town in a few hours, so I can’t post the next question(s). I nominate Raph. :)

  3. Clearly I underestimated you guys. Didn’t think we’d get an answer this quickly. Raph was very close, but Marc — who must have quite the collection of “old” foundry materials — was correct on all counts.

    The list itself is fascinating I think. The Europe side — quite tame and classic in comparison to the USA list — is actually not so different from bestseller lists we see in the US today, barring a few script fonts.

  4. Raph Levien says:

    Sounds like Marc nominated me, so I’ll pose the next set of questions. The theme is “the old guys stole all our best ideas.”

    1. Adobe PostScript / Type1 made cubic Beziers popular, but was not the first to use this primitive. Which font format was?

    2. One of the typographic refinements of Adobe InDesign is its ability to do whole-paragraph optimization of line breaks. Which system was first to implement this feature?

    3. One idea currently considered science fiction is to provide alternates of differing widths to aid in justification. What was the first book font produced in the 20th century to implement this feature? I’m not talking about swashy final forms, but variations so subtle you wouldn’t see them unless you were looking closely.

    4. What display font?

    5. PostScript is known for its ability to do arbitrary affine transformations of fonts (uniform scaling, rotation, skewing, and nonuniform scaling, also known as squooshing). Who did the first general implementation of these transforms?

    In all cases, I have answers in mind, but wouldn’t be shocked if experts could find even earlier examples. I’ll post hints this evening if need be.

  5. Troubleman says:

    Errr… the previous challenge was easier. :/

  6. John Butler says:

    1. Bitstream “Speedo.” Uh, huh-huh.
    2. It’s an evolution of the HZ (H. Zapf) algorithm first implemented in URW’s Kernus, the code for which Adobe licensed and adapted.
    3. I don’t know.
    4. Koch’s Wilhelm Klingspor-Schrift
    5. Uhhhh… TeX?

  7. Bobby Henderson says:

    Ah yes, the early 1990s. When Industria seemed to be everywhere -and getting misused rather frequently. Anyone remember those Blockbuster Music signs where “music” was set in Industria, but stretched to death? Boy, I hate font murder.

  8. Raph Levien says:

    1. About a decade earlier than Speedo (the exact dates are a little hard to pin down).

    2. At least a decade earlier than hz.

    3. Hint: its debut in a book was 1932. It was originally named after the press that printed the book, but when it was adapted later by Monotype, it was renamed after the author of that book.

    4. Hmm, I was unaware of width alternates in Klingspor-schrift, but it’s not terribly shocking. Where’s the best place to see examples? In any case, the font I have in mind is a sans, and was several years later.

    5. I think I threw people off the trail too much by using the mathematical terminology. What I have in mind is pre-digital.

  9. 1. TeX

    2. TeX

    3. TeX and Metafont, by Donald Knuth, 1979

    4. Alternate Gothic

    5. John Warnock?

  10. 5. I mean Linn Boyd Benton.

  11. Dan Reynolds says:

    At least the following characters in the metal version of Wilhelm Klingspor Schrift came in two widths:

    From 10-point upward: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q

    From 12-pont upward: e

    From 20-point upward: a,d,r,s,z,ďż˝

    My source for this is the exhibition catalog by Peter Bain and Paul Shaw for Blackletter: Type and National Identity

    But any old Klingspor Foundry catalog would show you that.

    Raph, you spend too much time digging through old ATF catalogs, you should collect the smaller, Klingspor specimens instead ;-) Then you would see what real foundry design and print quality looks like. No one ever touched the pre-WWII Klingspor specimens. If you won’t take my word for it, take Walter Tracy’s.

  12. Dan Reynolds says:

    Andreas Seidel just informed me that all of the capital letters had narrow alternates, from ten point upward. He e-mailed me an old Haas scan.
    from 20 point upwards are a few more alternates, plus some narrow ligatures.

  13. Raph Levien says:

    <montgomery burns>Excellent!</>

    Between John, Mark, and Dan, you’ve gotten either the answer I had in mind or a better one.

    1. Metafont (the native font format for TeX) used Bezier curves as its primitive, both for strokes and outlines. I’m not sure what was the exact year of introduction (it was refined quite a bit compared with the early versions), but I do know that AMS Euler, designed by Hermann Zapf and digitized as Bezier outlines, came out in 1983.

    2. TeX again, and the InDesign programmers openly acknowledge the inspiration. TeX was in fact amazingly sophisticated, and probably would have taken over the world had it not been for its arcane syntax and difficulty working with real fonts.

    3. The font I had in mind was Blumenthal’s Spiral, later adapted into Monotype Emerson (sans the width alternates). But apparently this was a lot more common than I thought. I see that Marderstieg’s 1935 Zeno is another with beautfully subtle width alternates (not to mention both short-tail and long-tail R variants).

    4. The font I had in mind was ATF Thermo, as it appeared in the 1934 specimen book, but Koch’s Klingspor Gotische definitely anticipated that, as pointed out by John and Dan.

    5. Linn Boyd Benton, of course. Sorry for the American bias.

    Dan, thanks for pointing my attention to the Klingspor fonts. Neuland and Koch Antiqua both rock, but aren’t exactly in need of revival. Unfortunately, I’m not that interested in Nazi^H^H^H^Hblackletter fonts, and omnibus specimen books seem hard to come by (I don’t see any on abebooks, just pamphlets for individual fonts). If you run across any at yard sales, consider me interested!

    Leafing through Jaspert, the two Klingspor fonts that seem most interesting are Koch’s Steel (Stahl), which seems an obvious inspiration for Lydian; and Tiemann’s Offizin, which Jaspert compares to Caslon but seems much more Times-like to my eyes (without the blandness and cliche, of course).

    Not sure who gets to post the next 5 questions according to the rules of the game. Stephen?

  14. Dan Reynolds says:

    I don’t think that even jokingly calling the Klingspor types “Nazi blackletter fonts” is funny. I can’t say anything about California, but here in Offenbach, there are young designers who dismiss the entire collection because of such false assumptions.

    The majority of Klingspor catalogs are just brochures for individual families. The only really nice complete catalog that I’ve seen was made in the early 50s. But the design & printing quality of these small brochures (which usually run from ca. 30ďż˝100 pages) are higher than most ATF things. Revivals aside, they are fantastic keepsakes. And if blackletter isn’t your thing, I highly recommend the Koch Antiqua catalog, if you can find it. I think that Neuland could teach one as much about optical scaling as anything from Benton’s hand. (I’m not sure about a great master approach to designďż˝ looking at types produced from the early 20th Century around the world shows that there were lots of people getting type founding right, optical scaling inclusive).

    The best place, in my experience, to get Klingspor specimens isn’t abebooks.com, but http://www.ZVAB.com (a German site that lists international sellers, and which has full English support).

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