Monotype launch exhibition showcasing 100 years of typeface development

An exhibition celebrating the history of the printed letter opens today.

Pencil to Pixel showcases over 100 years of type development, charting the history of typefaces from their original conceptual sketches to the digitisation of type.

Organised by Monotype, the exhibition showcases a selection of historical material from the typographic institution’s archive and includes original rarely-seen drawings, artefacts and publications which “capture the history of the company alongside examples of the typographic contributions still being made at home and abroad,” according to Monotype UK type director Dan Rhatigan.

Amongst the exhibits are the original Helvetica Film Masters from the Linotype archive, Times New Roman drawings from both Linotype and Monotype, and Bruce Rogers’ original sketches for Centaur. As well as the chance to explore the classics, the exhibition also offers a look at the typographic future and the place of fonts in the digital age.

Dan Rhatigan explains the history of Monotype’s archive:

"Monotype started to produce typefaces for its type-casting machines back in the late 19th century. The production process at the time started with a set of technical drawings to establish the design and dimensional characteristics of each letter in a typeface that would eventually be cast in lead. Initially, designs were based on existing foundry typefaces in common use in the printing trade at the time, but within a few years new designs were developed, some based on historical types, some completely new designs such as Gill Sans and the iconic Times New Roman, which started as a bespoke family for The Times in the early 1930s before achieving widespread popularity in the following decades.

Monotype’s office in Salfords, Surrey, is on the site that used to be its sprawling factory, which has made it possible for the company to hold onto the complete archive of its Type Drawing Office, even as the company’s manufacturing activities ceased.

The archive records about 80 years worth of typeface development (plus material from other sources gathered over the years), containing detailed drawings for all of Monotype’s hot metal typefaces from 1900 onwards, as well as original artwork, correspondence, production records, and promotional material.

Today the archive is a storehouse of information about many of the world’s classic typefaces currently in common use, as well as being a source of inspiration for contemporary designers both within the company and elsewhere."

Pencil to Pixel runs from 16/19-23 November at Metropolitan Wharf, Wapping, E1W 3SS.

The exhibition is supported by The Drum, D&AD, Eye, The University of Reading, GFSmith and Pureprint.

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