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Tribute

Emigre is happy to announce the release of Tribute, a new typeface by German type designer Frank Heine. This is Heine's fourth release with Emigre Fonts. Remedy, released in 1991, was a major commercial success. It's curlicue, free-style, comic appearance, provided a perfect counter to Emigre's then primarily modular type designs. Dalliance, a classic roman and script combo based on handwriting from a photocopy of a 1799 battle map, was released in 2002 and became an instant classic.

With Tribute, Heine followed a path similar to that of Dalliance by using a single printed source (a photo copy of a reprint of a type specimen printed around 1565) as its model. The specimen in question was set in typefaces cut in 1544 and 1557 by the French punchcutter François Guyot. Not nearly as influential as his elders, such as Garamond or Griffo, Guyot's unusual treatment of certain characters and overall idiosyncratic approach appealed to Heine's aesthetic sensibilities. Also, to design a font based on a Renaissance Antiqua had been a long held desire for Heine; "I am particularly attracted to its archaic feel, especially with settings in smaller design sizes. It is rougher with less filigree than the types of the following centuries thus exhibiting much cruder craftsmanship of the early printing processes." By using a third generation copy as a model, which did not reveal much detail, allowed Heine enough room for individual decisions resulting in a decidedly contemporary interpretation while maintaining a link to the past.

Fellow type designer and sign painter John Downer describes the result as follows: "It is evident that Frank Heine's 'Tribute' possesses an element of 'type caricature' in its drawing, but this fact doesn't relegate it to that one category. Heine has really gone beyond parody, well into an area of personal exploration. He has challenged many traditional assumptions that we 'connoisseurs' of hand-cut type have maintained in our attitude toward the historical accuracy sought and loved and expected in 'revivals.' The result is a unique combination of caricature, homage, alchemy, and fanciful reinterpretation. Tribute, I think, recalls Guyot's native French-learned style, primarily as a point of departure for an original - albeit implausible - work of historical fiction, with merits and faults of its own."

 
Design History
By Frank Heine

This text was first published in 2003 in the type specimen booklet for Tribute.

 
The Tribute family of fonts is based on types cut by the Frenchman, François Guyot. The single example that I used as the model for Tribute was a reprint of a type specimen probably printed around 1565 in the Netherlands. (An original can be seen at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.)

François Guyot was a punchcutter born in Paris, France, who moved to Antwerp in 1539 where he worked in the type founding trade. Until his death in 1570 he was a regular supplier of type to Christophe Plantin, Antwerp's renowned printer. Together with his competitor, Ameet Tavernier, Guyot produced types that were highly influential in the appearance of printed work in the Low Countries in the period from 1545-1570, and they were in great demand throughout much of Western Europe.

I've always had a desire to design a typeface based on a Renaissance Antiqua. (1) There are two reasons. First, the Renaissance Antiqua can be considered the prototype for most of today's typefaces. It already provided a formal maturity at the end of the 15th century, with an exceptional level of differentiation between single characters, offering good legibility.

Second, I am particularly attracted to its archaic feel, especially with settings in smaller design sizes (Nonpareil through Bourgeois). It is rougher with less filigree than the types of the following centuries, thus exhibiting much of the cruder craftsmanship of the early printing processes.

To a certain extent the early Renaissance Antiqua congenially reflects the contradictions of its time; the vanishing Middle Ages versus Humanism, and the urge for cognizance or Inquisition versus Reformation.

François Guyot's types were not as influential as those of his elders, Griffo or Garamond. There were many inconsistencies not usually seen in this class of typefaces. Some of the characters have an unrefined or unusual feel, such as the N, the asymmetrical M, the abrupt cut of the tail of the y, or the treatments of the accents and brackets.


Furthermore, the available size on the original print from which I worked did not reveal much detail. For instance, no clear examples were apparent regarding the logic of serifs or stroke endings. In this respect the source left enough room for individual decisions. Most of these detail decisions - such as how far the character stays within the historical attributes, or how far it edges away from them - were relatively easy to arrive at, since the basic forms of a Renaissance Antiqua are quite familiar to me. (2) As I was drawing each letter directly in Fontographer 3.5, I made these decisions quite intuitively.

Due to my preference for smaller design sizes, Tribute was equipped with a robust stroke width and decreased contrast between thin and bold strokes. This ensures the needed heavy text "color" and equability that is necessary for good legibility at small sizes.

Despite my fondness for typefaces originating from about 1480 to 1580, there was the nagging question about the sense and purpose of adapting a historical model for today's digital techniques. There are already many, partially well designed, revivals available. But many of these solutions (the digital version of Stempel Garamond comes to mind immediately) appeared to me as over-interpreted in the details. They were mostly too thin and sterile looking, erasing any traces of its origins. With the design of Tribute it was my intention to maintain, visually, this link to the past.

The way that typefaces are continually revived and placed into new contexts has always fascinated me. In contrast to the more inflexible art forms such as architecture, sculpture or painting, the historical typeface continues to be an active and vivid medium for contemporary experiments and typographic solutions. Historical models can easily be updated and adapted to current production techniques and find many useful applications in today's media. This speaks to the triumph of early Humanist fonts and their attainment of legibility that outlasted centuries of typeface development, and still functions today.

From top to bottom: Scan of Guyot's 1544 Double Pica Roman (scaled 50%); detail of the original model (scaled 170%); interpretation of serifs (H, l, k) and stroke endings (c, l, k).

 
1. The Renaissance Antiqua is based upon a misunderstanding. Early Italian Humanists rediscovering the Greek and Roman Antique interpreted the Carolingian Minuscule (which came 700 years later) as Roman handwriting and imitated its style. The Humanist handwriting became the source for the first (Venetian) Renaissance Antiqua cut in Italy by Sweynheim and Pannartz (in Subiaco near Rome, 1463). This typeface still shows some characteristics of Gothic types. But only a few years later, Nicholas Jenson created his elaborated types in Venice in 1470, which became the model for many successive punchcutters and typeface designers until today.

Another interesting aspect of the Renaissance Antiqua is that it is the first typeface consisting of two alphabets: capital and lowercase letters. While the lowercase letters were modeled after the Humanist handwriting, the capitals were taken from Roman inscriptions such as on the Trajan Column in Rome.

2. The German Industry Norm (DIN) differentiates between Venetian and French Renaissance Antiqua. Within the United States the terms French Aldine or Aldine Roman may sound more familiar. The typical characteristics of a French Renaissance Antiqua/French Aldine are shown in the Tribute letters below:


o and round shapes: slightly tilted to the left; i: convoluted, quite heavy serifs with concave transitions to the stem (brackets); k: triangular upper serif; e: small counter, horizontal crossbar, relatively high; a: small, narrow counter; f: ascender swinging far to the right, drop-shaped; overall character: decreased contrast between stems and hairlines.


Call It What It Is by John Downer

 

Tribute Main Page

 

 

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