The history of lettering and typography is a long and winding road. From the first writing systems of the Sumerian cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphics to the most modern typefaces today, the overall idea remains the same; visually expressing words and ideas equals power. In the 15th century, civilization took a leap forward with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the movable type printing press. Before Gutenberg most documents and books were hand scribed by monks. With a new way to bring printing to the masses spreading across the globe, focus could shift to the luxury of design. Printers could now experiment with different types of lettering for style and readability. After Gutenberg’s first typeface, Blackletter, came Jenson, Italics and Caslon in the 18th century. These later became categorized as Old Style fonts. Soon after, English Baskerville shifted popularity to Transitional fonts. Even later, the French and Italian fonts, Didot and Bodoni, were favored as Modern fonts. Most serif typefaces we use today have origins in these basic categories. During the second industrial revolution art and advertising created a need for bolder and simpler fonts. It was during this time that san serif type took charge.
Throughout all of this history people have invented wonderful and creative variations of print and hand lettering. From book covers and charts to branding, advertising and folk art, we’ve seen words and lettering take on countless unique forms. Below is a gallery of images from our shop that provide an example of the lettering trends and experiments throughout time. We hope you enjoy exploring these words as much as we do!