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4. ETRVSCA - Bishop Sans in Ways of Thinking

Version 2 2021-02-25, 10:00
Version 1 2021-02-02, 14:21
posted on 2021-02-11, 16:51 authored by Jon MeltonJon 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 postal dated 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. The stampers 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.

The typeface Bishop Sans, revives these serif-less postal date stamps of the eighteenth century. This practice-based research font has informed the development of the full typeface of ETRVSCA Sans – a primal sans-serif typeface destined for commercial release for future REF submission. 

Note: This work originally had a publisher's embargo of 12 months from date of publication.


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