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The Evolution of Typography

Typography is an intensely visual form of communication. Because this visible language communicates thoughts and information through human sight, its history is presented here in chronological visual form on four timelines. This evolution is shown in the context of world events, architectural development, and art history. The first timeline predates typography. It begins with the invention of writing over five thousand years ago and ends with the invention of movable type in Europe during the middle of the fifteenth century. The second timeline covers the long era of the handpress and handset metal types. This period, from Gutenberg’s invention of movable type to the end of the eighteenth century, lasted about three hundred and fifty years. In the third timeline, the Industrial Revolution and nineteenth century are revealed as an era of technological innovation and an outpouring of new typographic forms. The fourth timeline begins with the year 1900 and covers the twentieth century, when type was shaped by the aesthetic concerns of modernism, the need for functional communication, and technological progress. In the late twentieth century, the digital revolution in typography occurred, followed by the dawning of a new century and millennium.

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From the origins of writing to Gutenberg’s invention of movable type: 3150 B.C.–A.D. 1450

1.

2.

4.

c. 3150 B.C.: The earliest

c. 3000 B.C.: Cuneiform, a

c. 2400 B.C.: False-door stele

c. 1570–1349 B.C.:

written documents are

very early writing system,

inscribed with hieroglyphic

Polychromed wood sculpture from New Kingdom Egypt,

7.

impressed clay tablets from

consisting of wedge-shaped

writing, from Old Kingdom

Sumer. The signs represent

marks on clay tablets, was

Egypt.

with hieroglyphic inscriptions.

clay tokens, which were used

invented by the Sumerians.

5.

8.

for record keeping before the

c. 2100 B.C.: Cuneiform tablet

c. 1450 B.C.: Detail, The Book

2500 B.C.: Egyptians begin to

listing expenditures of grain

of the Dead of Tuthmosis III,

make papyrus, a new writing

and animals.

hieroglyphic writing on

material derived from the

6.

papyrus.

further descriptive

stems of the papyrus plant.

c. 1800–1400 B.C.:

information for timeline

3.

Stonehenge, a megalithic

illustrations start on

c. 2600 B.C.: Completion of

monument of thirty-foot-

page 302.

the pyramids at Giza, Egypt.

tall stones set into circular

invention of writing. Note: Picture credits and

patterns.

c. 3150 B.C.

1.

3.

2. 8.

5.

6.

4.

7.

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9.

10.

13.

14.

c. 1500 B.C.: The twenty-two

389 B.C.: Inscription in the

414–413 B.C.: Fragment of a

c. 50 B C.–A.D. 500: Roman

150: The Roman codex, with

characters of the Phoenician

Phoenician alphabet on a frag-

Greek record of sale, carved

square capitals (capitalis

folded pages, begins to be

alphabet.

ment of a marble bowl.

on stone.

quadrata) were carefully writ-

used alongside the rolled

11.

ten with a flat pen.

scroll.

c. 800 B.C.: Homer writes the

Fourth century B.C.: Greek

c. 160 B.C.: Parchment, a new

Iliad and Odyssey.

manuscript writing.

writing material made from

c. A.D. 33: Crucifixion of Christ.

c. 100–600: Roman rustic

12.

animal skins, is developed in

15.

writing (capitalis rustica)

the Greek state of Pergamum.

c. 79: Brush writing from a

conserved space by using

wall at Pompeii, preserved by

more condensed letters

16.

540 B.C.: The first public

448–432 B.C.: The Parthenon,

library is established in

temple of the goddess

Athens, Greece.

Athena, on the Acropolis in

44 B.C.: Julius Caesar is

the volcanic eruption of

written with a flat pen held in

Athens, Greece.

murdered.

Vesuvius.

an almost vertical position.

105: Ts’ai Lun invents paper in China.

c. 1500 B.C.

9.

11.

13.

12.

14.

15.

10. 16.

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17.

19.

118–25: The Pantheon, Rome.

312–315: Arch of Constantine,

c. 400–1400: During the

476: Emperor Romulus

Third–ninth centuries: Half-

18.

Rome. Carved into marble,

thousand-year medieval era,

Augustulus, last ruler of the

uncials, a lettering style of the

Undated: The fluid gestural

monumental Roman capitals

knowledge and learning are

western Roman Empire, is

Christian Church, introduces

quality, harmonious

survived the thousand-year

kept alive in the Christian

deposed by the Ostrogoths.

pronounced ascenders and

proportions, and beautiful

Dark Ages.

monastery, where manuscript

20.

descenders.

books are lettered in the

533–49: Church of Sant’

23.

effectively translated into the

325: Emperor Constantine

scriptoria.

Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.

Sixth–ninth centuries: Insular

permanent stone carving of

adopts Christianity as the state

21.

majuscules, a formal style with

monumental capitals (capitalis

religion of the Roman Empire.

22.

forms of Roman writing are

monumentalis).

452: Attila the Hun invades

Third–sixth centuries: Uncials

exaggerated serifs, was

and ravages northern Italy.

are rounded, freely drawn

developed by Irish monks

majuscule letters, first used by

from the half-uncials.

the Greeks as early as the third century B.C.

A.D. 118

17.

19.

18.

21.

22.

23.

20.

4


27.

29.

732: The Battle of Tours ends

868: The earliest extant printed

Eighth–twelfth centuries:

Eleventh–twelfth centuries:

Thirteenth–fifteenth centuries:

the Muslim advance into

manuscript, the Diamond

Caroline minuscules became

Early Gothic lettering, a

Gothic Textura Quadrata, or Textura, the late Gothic style

31.

Sutra, is printed in China.

the standard throughout

transitional style between

25.

Europe after Charlemagne

Caroline minuscules and

with rigorous verticality and

Tenth century: High Cross at

issued his reform decree of

Textura, has an increased

compressed forms.

emperor of the Holy Roman

Kells, Meath County, Ireland.

796, calling for a uniform

vertical emphasis.

Empire by Pope Leo III.

26.

writing style.

30.

1347–1351: First wave of the

24.

c. Eleventh century: Round

Twelfth century: Bronze and

Black Death, a plague that decimates the European

Europe. 800: Charlemagne is crowned

c. 800: Portrait of Christ from

tower on the Rock of Cashel,

1034: Pi Sheng invents

copper crucifix from northern

The Book of Kells, a Celtic

Tipperary County, Ireland, a

movable type in China.

Italy.

manuscript.

lookout and refuge against Viking invaders.

population. 32.

1096–1099: The First Crusade.

1215: The Magna Carta grants

Thirteenth century: Byzantine

28.

constitutional liberties in

School, Madonna and Child

1163–1250: Construction of

England.

on a Curved Throne.

28.

32.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

A.D. 732

24.

31.

27.

25.

29.

26.

30.

5


33.

39.

Thirteenth–fifteenth centuries:

1431: Jeanne d’Arc is burned

c. 1450: Johann Gutenberg

Woodblock print of the hand-

Rotunda, a more rounded

at the stake.

invents movable type in

printing press, with

Gothic letter, flourished in

36.

Mainz, Germany.

compositors setting type from

southern Europe.

Fifteenth century: First page

38.

a typecase in the background.

34.

of a block-book, Apocalypse.

c. 1450–55: Page from

40.

Fourteenth century: Lippo

Woodblock printing probably

Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible, the

The cathedral in the medieval

Memmi, Saint John the

appeared in Europe before

first European typographic

city of Mainz, Germany.

Baptist.

1400.

book.

35.

37.

1420–36: Filippo Brunelleschi,

1440–45: Fra Filippo Lippi,

dome of Florence Cathedral.

Madonna and Child.

c. 1200

34.

37.

38.

35.

33.

40.

39.

36.

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42.

45.

Typography from Gutenberg to the nineteenth century: A.D. 1450–1800

1450–1500: Books printed in

1467: Sweynheym and

c. 1485: Filippino Lippi, Portrait

c. 1494: Scholar and printer

the first half-century of

Pannartz, the first Roman-style

of a Youth.

Aldus Manutius established

typographic printing are called

type, influenced by Roman

46.

the Aldine Press in Venice to

Incunabula.

inscriptional capitals and

1486: Erhard Ratdolt, the

publish works by the great

manuscripts written in

earliest known specimen sheet

Greek and Roman thinkers.

The humanist philosophy

41.

Caroline minuscules.

of printing types.

48. cutter for Aldus Manutius),

that flowered during the

1465: Sweynheym and

43.

Renaissance embraced the

Pannartz, the first type

1470: Nicolas Jenson, early

1492: Christopher Columbus

study of classical literature, a

designed in Italy. It had some

Venetian roman typeface.

lands in America.

belief in human dignity and

Roman features.

44.

worth, a spirit of individual-

1475: William Caxton,

ism, and a shift from religious

typography from the first book

to secular concerns.

printed in the English

47.

1495: Francesco Griffo (punch roman type first used in De aetna by Pietro Bembo.

language.

1450

41.

42.

43.

44.

45.

47.

48.

46.

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49.

51.

1501: Francesco Griffo, the first

Woodblock initial by Geoffroy

1517: Martin Luther posts his

1525: Albrecht Dürer,

1519–47: Pierre Nepveu,

italic typeface, based on

Tory, who returned to France

ninety-five theses on the door

construction of the letter B.

Chateau of Chambord, France.

chancery script handwriting.

from study in Italy in 1505,

of Wittenberg Palace Church,

54.

56.

50.

inspired by roman letterforms

launching the Reformation.

1529: Geoffroy Tory,

c. 1480–1561: Claude

Home of Albrecht Dürer,

and Renaissance design

52.

construction of the letter B.

Garamond, outstanding

Nuremberg, Germany.

ideals.

1523: Lodovico Arrighi, an

designer of Old Style

Italian writing master,

typefaces during the French

introduces his formal chancery

Renaissance.

53.

55.

italic type.

1501

50.

51.

53.

54.

55.

49.

52. 56.

8


57.

59.

c. 1540: Titian, Portrait of

1546: Jacques Kerver,

1582: Pope Gregory Xlll

1603: Shakespeare writes

1621: Jean Jannon, typefaces

Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

typography, illustration, and

initiates the Gregorian

Hamlet.

upon which twentieth-century

decorative initials, which were

Calendar, which is still in use.

62.

Garamonds are based.

1607: Carlo Maderna, façade

64.

of St. Peter’s, the Vatican.

1628: The Vatican Press,

1543: Copernicus publishes his

combined into a rare elegance

63.

theory of the heliocentric solar

during the French

1584: Sir Walter Raleigh

system.

Renaissance.

discovers and annexes

58.

60.

Virginia.

1609: Regular weekly

1544: Simone de Colines, title

After 1577: El Greco, Saint

61.

newspapers appear in

page with woodcut border.

Martin and the Beggar.

1595: Johann Theodor de Bry,

Strasbourg, Germany.

specimen of roman capitals.

illustrative initial E.

c. 1540

64.

61.

58.

62. 57.

59.

60.

63.

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65.

71.

68.

1632–43: The Taj Mahal, India.

1657: First fountain pen is

c. 1670: Christoffel van Dyck,

During the eighteenth century,

1709: Matthaus Poppelmann,

66.

manufactured, in Paris.

Dutch Old Style type.

type design went through a

Zwinger Palace, Dresden.

c. 1630: Sir Anthony van Dyck,

67.

portrait of Henri ll de Lorraine.

c. 1664: Jan Vermeer, Woman

1686: Sir Isaac Newton sets

Style to Modern Style fonts

1709: England adopts the first

Holding a Balance.

forth his law of gravity.

designed late in the century.

modern copyright law.

gradual transition from Old

1639: The first printing press in the British Colonies is

72.

69. 1666: The great fire of London.

established in Massachusetts. 1667: Milton publishes

1675–1710: Sir Christopher

1700: The emergence of the

1720: William Caslon, Caslon

Wren, St. Paul’s Cathedral,

Rococo Style.

Old Style types, which from

London.

70.

this date were used

1702: Philippe Grandjean

throughout the British Empire.

Paradise Lost.

(punch cutter), Romain du Roi, the first transitional face.

1632

68.

65.

66. 72.

69.

70.

67.

71.

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