Riccardo Olocco A new method of analysing printed type: the case of 15th-century Venetian romans


This research introduces and discusses a new method for analysing printed type and applies it to 15th-century Venetian romans. It aims to review and improve the traditional methods of type analysis employed in bibliographical research. It is based on photographic enlargements of printed type, on image editing and on detailed analysis of the letterforms. Comparisons of printers’ letterforms are made by means of overlaying images – a practice that clearly highlights differences and similarities among the letters.

Drawing on printed matter held 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 up to the present. The historical extent of the research covers the last three decades of the 15th century and focuses on printing presses active in Venice and in the Venetian territories. Presses in the rest of Italy and throughout Europe that employed the Venetian types discussed here, both before and after 1500, are also taken into account.

Olocco’s work documents the trade of type material (cast type and matrices) and the extensive dissemination of certain types – areas which historians have generally ignored for this early period. It also documents the punchcutters’ ability to imitate existing types so closely that it can be very hard to distinguish them from their original models – a practice that has not been previously studied.

This research is supported by an extensive apparatus of images of letterforms shown at different sizes of enlargement. It intends to provide new insights into the early development of roman types and aid bibliographical research by providing increasingly thorough information on the types in use.

It also provides a method of type analysis that can be successfully applied to the productions of other printers and to other time periods. This new method allows the researcher to gain information from printed books that was not possible previously.

Texts and book design by Riccardo Olocco

29,7 × 22 cm
454 pages
English Edition

In the Press


Riccardo Olocco

Riccardo Olocco is a type designer and member of CAST — Cooperativa Anonima Servizi Tipografici. Besides designing, he’s a researcher in the history of type and typography combining bibliographical knowledge with detailed analysis of letterforms. He has recently delivered a PhD thesis at the University of Reading concerning 15th-century Venetian roman types. When taking there an MA in typeface design he also fell in love with Bengali script. Prior to this he was from 2009 to 2013 a lecturer in typography at the University of Bolzano. He currently lives between Bolzano and London.