This research introduces and discusses a new method of analysing printed typefaces and applies it to 15th-century Venetian romans. It aims to revise and improve the traditional methods of type analysis used in bibliographic research. It is based on photographic enlargements of printed types, image editing and detailed analysis of letterforms. Comparisons of printers’ typeforms are made by superimposing images – a practice that clearly highlights differences and similarities between letters.
Drawing on printed material preserved in Italian and British libraries, this new method is applied to four important samples of early Venetian type design, including Nicolas Jenson’s Roman, which can safely be considered the prototype of all Roman types to date. The historical scope of the research covers the last three decades of the 15th century and focuses on the presses operating in Venice and the Venetian territories. Also taken into consideration are presses in the rest of Italy and throughout Europe that employed the Venetian types discussed here, both before and after 1500.
Olocco’s work documents the trade in typographic material (cast and matrix typefaces) and the widespread use of certain types – areas that historians have generally ignored for this early period. It also documents the punchcutters’ ability to imitate existing types so well made that it can be very difficult to distinguish them from their original models – a practice that has not been studied previously.
This research is supported by an extensive apparatus of images of letterforms shown at different magnification sizes. It is intended to provide new insights into the early development of Roman types and to aid bibliographical research by providing more in-depth information on the typefaces in use.
Text and book design by Riccardo Olocco
29.7 × 22 cm