Curious History

Curious History

The History of Fonts

The history of typography and fonts is truly fascinating. Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press in fifteenth-century Germany. The storage of metal printing types in two cases, one for big letters and one for small, created the terms “uppercase” and “lowercase” which is still in use today

In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the Venetian publisher Aldus Manutius printed and distributed cheap, small books all over the world. The reason his books where cheap was that he used italic types, a cursive form that allows more words to fit on a page.

Another interesting tidbit is that the painter and designer Geofroy Tory designed a font that reflected the proportions of the ideal human form. Other subtle changes in fonts have had big reactions. In the late eighteenth century, the English printer John Baskerville created a font with so high contrast between thick and thin that he got accused of “blinding all the Readers of the Nation” and “hurt the Eye.”

Working with engraving and the flexible steel pen, eighteenth-century writing master George Bickham is credited for creating curved scripts and roman capitals rendered in high contrast. This look influenced the typeface designs of Baskerville, Bodoni and Didot.

The rise of advertising in the nineteenth century stimulated demand for large-scale letters that could create attention on billboards in the cities. Designed by Paul Renner in Germany, 1927, Futura is a practical font that is widely used even today.

During a brief transitional period (1950s – 1990s), phototypesetting, a photographic technology, used fonts on filmstrips that allowed fine spacing between letters without the physical effort of manual typesetting. This was the beginning of the type design industry in the 1960s and 1970s.

By the mid-1970s, all the major typeface technologies and their fonts were in use: letterpress; casting machines; phototypositors; computer phototypesetters; and digital typesetters. From the mid-1980s, as digital typography was growing, almost all users had adopted the American spelling font, which refer to a computer file containing scalable outline letterforms (digital font).


Nowadays, with tens of thousands of fonts available, we are accustomed to a great variety of typefaces and letterforms, especially online. You can download free fonts on The site is a leading resource for finding free fonts for both Mac and PC. The site has tens of thousands of free fonts you can download for both private and commercial use.

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