More on Printers, from Bigelow

A couple of days ago, I posted something about how I’m playing around with @font-face (and since then have also been experimenting with TypeKit, which I use for the headlines you see here). Generated a bit of discussion, but one of the things I mentioned at the end of my post was a class I took at Stanford 15 years ago called Concepts of Text, and taught by Charles Bigelow, a well-known font designer — his foundry did the font family Lucida, for example, and the System 7 city fonts, among many, many others.

One of the classes I remember fondly for being a little wacky (and interesting) was when he gave a talk about typographers who were persecuted for the material they were typesetting.

After I posted the other day, Professor Bigelow somehow found the post and gave us a little primer, which I include below because of the high awesomeness quotient. Really made my day – favorite comment ever. 🙂

Nice to hear, after all these years, that somebody remembers those classes. :-)

Just in case the names and dates have faded from memory, here’s a brief refresher.

Antoine Augereau, Parisian printer and type designer, reputedly the teacher of Garamond. hanged and burned on Christmas Eve, 1534, on (supposedly trumped up) charges of printing heretical placards.

Etienne Dolet, printer of Lyon and Paris, burned at the stake on August 3, 1546, in Paris, on charges of blasphemy, sedition, and selling prohibited books.

Martin l’Homme, hanged in 1560 for printing a pamphlet against a Cardinal.

That all happened a long time ago, but in the 20th century, Sophie Scholl, among others in the White Rose society, was guillotined on charges of treason, on February 22, 1943, for distributing pamphlets against Nazi genocide on the Eastern Front.

I’m sure that somewhere there is good news about printers, too. :-)


  1. Mike Beltzner

    Have you ever read “On Typography” by Eric Gill? It’s a fantastic polemic, marginally about the production of typefaces, but actually about the loss of a connection between the working man and God due to the innovations of the industrial revolution.

    Fascinating reading.

  2. Fascinating stuff indeed. I wonder if this class is still taught at Stanford? From googling for it, I’d guess no. Or maybe, the name has changed.

  3. This reminds me of a chemistry textbook I once used which would have occasional dry asides regarding whatever topic was being discussed. Two examples I remember (there were other good ones, I think I even skimmed the entire textbook to find all of them): Antoine Lavoisier was briefly mentioned as the father of chemistry and as one death by guillotine during the Reign of Terror with the aside “Thankfully, this doesn’t happen to textbook authors any more”. The other, in a section on stereoisomers, asked this question: what do you call the following molecule? (mangled due to formatting, but hopefully still legible)

    H – C – Ma
    Pa – C – H

    The answer? “transparent”