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ETRVSCA - Bishop Sans in Ways of Thinking

posted on 02.02.2021, 14:21 by Jon Melton
Contributor to Ways of Thinking, Published by the Ruskin Press, Cambridge in March 2020.

ISBN 978-1-912319-02-2

OBJECTS: 'seemingly overlooked'


ETRVSCA - Bishop Sans

Date stamps on posted letters were introduced

in April 1661 by Britain’s first Postmaster-

General Henry Bishop, in order to counteract

accusations of unscrupulous behaviour by

employees of the Crown’s postal service. ‘Bishop

Marks’, as they became known, served a similar

function to Roman ceramic seals, legionnaires’

signet rings, and lead bullae — a guarantee

of authenticity, and ensuring the untampered

arrival of correspondence and goods.

All letters in England and Wales were

locally town-stamped and sent via London (or

Edinburgh in Scotland and Dublin in Ireland)

ready for distribution via ‘post roads’ throughout

the provinces. This stamping process was the

forerunner of the post date franking system,

and the reason our modern adhesive labels are

called ‘stamps’.

In 1673 the fourth Postmaster-General,

Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, introduced

a new serif-less letterform for date stamps.

These stamps were originally produced in

metal, but were later cut from end-grain wood

by craftsmen of varying ability and as such

differ widely. With only a few exceptions

these utilise a sans-serif Latin alphabet, with

‘I’s for ‘J’s and ‘V’s for ‘U’s. Countless stamped

letters would have been sent, and serif-less

letterforms were therefore commonplace

throughout the eighteenth century. Yet type

historians have seemingly overlooked this

classically informed stamped face which almost

certainly made an impression on the first metal

types of the nineteenth century.

Bishop Sans revives these serif-less postal

date stamps of the eighteenth century. This

research font has informed the development of

the full typeface ETRVSCA – a primal sans-serif

typeface destined for commercial release in


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Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS)