Kalice font specimen

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Max Phillips on December 16, 2019

The nineteenth century is still going strong — every week seems to bring a new revival of another Barnhart Brothers or Stephenson Blake typeface. Many of them are proudly anachronistic, with willful curves, exaggerated or suppressed ink traps, and spiky or blocky serifs. Kalice is different.

It was drawn by Margot Lévêque, a young French designer specializing in fashion and editorial. She seems to have looked carefully at old workhorse romans like Morris Fuller Benton’s Cushing and Miller & Richard’s Old Style, and then made something very modern and all her own.

Kalice is sturdy but delicate. Its open counters and imposingly large x-height don’t prevent it from being elegant, with a certain looking-at-you-over-its-glasses air. The drawing is precise but never stiff. The finish is soft, and the blob-ended serifs are a nod to the look of ink squeeze. It’s based on an 1880 face called Elzévir Anglais (which may have been published by A.-H. Bécus, Paris; Lévêque doesn’t say). Details like the short i and j and the subtly curved leg of K, k, and R only reveal themselves after study. The head serifs are sharply raked, as are the foot serifs of d and u. The 4 has a small beak. The t is cruciform, with its crossbar held just a little high; g has a round, up-lurching ear; ç has a cedilla like a dangling scarf.

In spite of these tiny quirks, the typeface is far from mannered. It’s firm and self-assured, with a clear, open color, and beautifully readable. Kalice is currently only available as a single weight, but we can hope an italic and bold will follow. And the addition of small caps would make it a brilliant book face.

Max Phillips is a Dublin-based designer who runs the Signal Type Foundry. He previously spent twenty years in New York making useful, attractive designs for clients like FAO Schwarz, Citi, and HarperCollins.

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