The following is a summary of the research that I conducted during my enrollment in the Expert Class Type Design, 2022-2023 program at the Plantin Institute of Typography in Antwerp, Belgium.

In Hendrik D. L.Vervliet’s The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance, I came across the Gros-Canon known as ‘Coline’s Finé’. A chart from this text shows eight of the 47 different gros-canons that were being made in and around Paris between 1530 and 1540 (pg.160-161) . Vervliet posits that this particular type was possibly ‘an early work by a young... Garamont.’ This type was used for titling in the 1551 edition of the book Historia animalium (translated to English as ‘History of Animals’) by Conrad Gessner. It’s been called an “inventory of renaissance zoology.” The layout of the book is well-crafted. There are different types used for the titles, page numbers, body copy, and subtitles. A beautiful copy of this book is in the reading room of the Museum Plantin-Moretus. 

Jan Van der Linden took photographs of the book and I began studying and collecting instances of the type’s characters from the various page titles. I was amazed by the qualities of lightness and economy in the characters. The shallow and angular counter of the lowercase ‘a’ has a particularly nice quality. The taller ascenders and lower x-height in relation to the capitals helps to retain desirable calligraphic proportions.

Because the type was originally made for Latin language usage, the uppercase is missing J,K,U,W and the lowercase the ‘k’ and ‘w’. The titles and page numbers were cast on the same body, so I mistook them for being a part of the type. Upon further research into available material showing the type, I could not find any numbers that look as though they were drawn in conjunction with the Latin characters.

I began to measure the type using material that showed clearly the stems of the letters and spacing. This gave me measurable units for which I could create a grid that could stage the spacing and the black of the letterforms. Because of the roughness of the material I found additional material from the punchcutter Simon De Colines to test the spacing found in the source material. In order to keep some of the original qualities, I first drew all the characters in the context of the surrounding characters to keep as much of the spirit of the type as possible. Because some capital letters felt noticeably larger than others, I began to carefully balance the letters, adding or subtracting the visual weight of the characters to create a more even appearance in the text. I still retained some of the original boldness of the capitals.

I drew the missing uppercase and lowercase characters to feel related to the rest of the original letterforms. I drew the numerals referencing the ‘Matrijzen Romein “Gros Canon Romain”’ (MA.003.a) in the museum’s collection. This type shares simalar patterning and formal qualities of the ‘Finé’. In the final font, I have included stylistic alternates for the numerals that were paired with the titles in the book, as well as Venetian style periods that were used in place of typical dot periods.

© Copyright Seth Haller 2023.