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The Dwindling Language of Type Specimens 1901–1914

O’Neill, Jesse;


At the turn of the twentieth-century, type specimen books were the primary vehicles for advertising commercial typography. Their function was to display letterforms, but for the design historian they can also reveal the wider values of the printing trade. Late nineteenth-century specimens presented their decorative typefaces through diverse text fragments that point to typography’s wider social involvements, but in the 1900s this convention began to change. This essay explores the changing role of texts in specimen design through a corpus of Australian samples produced in 1901–1914. I argue that the new uses of language reflect a wider shift in the anonymous typographers’ trade identity, showcasing a practice concerned less with its old myths of knowledge and skill, and more interested in the present acts of its own labour. The essay gives evidence of how specimen design reflected trade identity in the regional Australian market, but unravelling the design structures of these books also has implications for their wider study. Understanding how specimens were designed expands their potential use as sources in studying the anonymous designers who created them.


Palavras-chave: type specimen books, typography, australian design,


DOI: 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0065

Referências bibliográficas
  • [1] Batson Andamp; Co. (1886) First specimen book, Sydney: Batson Andamp; Co.
  • [2] Eckersall, K. (1980) Young Caxton: A history of aims in printing education in Melbourne 1870–1970, Melbourne: Melbourne College of Printing and Graphic Arts.
  • [3] Edward Lee Andamp; Co. (c.1913) Our type faces, Sydney: Edward Lee Andamp; Co.
  • [4] F. T. Wimble Andamp; Co. (1913) Catalogue of bookbinders and paper rulers’ machinery and sundries, Sydney: F. T. Wimble Andamp; Co.
  • [5] Gordon Andamp; Gotch (c.1908) Specimens of type, presses and printing material, Sydney: Gordon Andamp; Gotch.
  • [6] Hagan, J. (1966) Printers and politics: A history of Australian printing unions 1850–1950, Canberra: Australian National University Press.
  • [7] New South Wales Government Printer (1909) Specimens of types received at the Government Printing Office, Sydney: William Gullick.
  • [8] O’Neill, J. (2012) The design and social meaning of Australian type specimen books, 1880–1901, PhD diss.: University of New South Wales.
  • [9] Walsh, W. S. (1893) Handy book of literary curiosities, Philadelphia: J. P. Lippincott.
  • [10] Websdale Shoosmith Andamp; Company (1898) Specimens of printing types, Sydney: Websdale Shoosmith Andamp; Co.
  • [11] Wimble’s Australian Type Foundry (1901) Specimens of type and borders, Sydney: F. T. Wimble Andamp; Co.
  • [12] Wimble’s Australian Type Foundry (1904) Specimens of type and borders, Sydney: F. T. Wimble Andamp; Co.
  • [13] Wimble’s Australian Type Foundry (1908) Type, borders, etc., Sydney: F. T. Wimble Andamp; Co.
Como citar:

O’Neill, Jesse; "The Dwindling Language of Type Specimens 1901–1914", p. 459-464 . In: Tradition, Transition, Tragectories: major or minor influences? [=ICDHS 2014 - 9th Conference of the International Committee for Design History and Design Studies]. São Paulo: Blucher, 2014.
ISSN 2318-6968, DOI 10.5151/despro-icdhs2014-0065

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