Slab Serif: Egyptian Type Styles

by Thomas Phinney

Continuing from the previous page, Part Five of "A Brief History of Typography"

Glypha These faces have block-like rectangular serifs, sticking out horizontally or vertically, often the same thickness as the body strokes. There is some debate about the origin of slab serif typefaces: did they originate by somebody adding serifs to a sans face, or were they conceived independently?

Lubalin Graph But even if they had a separate genesis as a family, it is certainly the case that many of the most common and popular slab serif forms have been created by adding slab serifs to sans faces by the same designer (e.g. Adrian Frutiger's 1977 Glypha, Herb Lubalin's 1974 Lubalin Graph (derived from his Avant Garde).

The genre got its name from the Egyptian style slab serif. Other slab serif faces include Berthold City (Trump, 1930), Memphis (Weiss, 1930), Serifa (Adrian Frutiger, 1968) and Silica (Stone, 1990).

Berthold CITY Trump Silica

Then there were the Clarendons

Century SchoolbookClarendon The Clarendons or Ionics are an offspring of the slab serif typefaces in which the serifs are bracketed. These are often used in newspaper work, because their sturdy serifs hold up well under adverse printing conditions. The most famous member of this sub-family is Clarendon, by Robert Besley, named after the Clarendon Press in Oxford, and reworked by the Monotype foundry in 1935. Other very familiar slabs in the Clarendon genre are Century Schoolbook (Morris Fuller Benton, 1924-35) and Cheltenham, which probably has more iterations than any of the other Clarendon style fonts!

This concludes the "official" categorization of type families and geners -- but in no way ends the story. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th century, the world of fonts and type families exploded. Every generation spawned its own blue-ribbon roster of font founders and designers, and the categories expanded to suit another dozen styles that captured the imagination of graphic designers all over the world. So, our history of type piece continues with, Fat Faces, Wood Type, Script, Brush, Italic & Freehand, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Synthesis, and even Grunge! Follow along ...

Now continue with : "Display, Decorative & Art Faces"


See 68 of the fonts mentioned in this History of Typography in our Typography Gallery