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ETRVSCA Sans - Font Typeface and Type Specimens

posted on 21.01.2021, 16:30 by Jon Melton
ETRVSCA Sans - The Primal 18th Century Sans

This practice-based historical research identifies the architect John Soane’s inspiration and model for his serif-less letterforms deployed as titling on drawings and as proposed inscriptions throughout the last quarter of the eighteen-century. This typography revived the primitive letterforms of Republican Rome and earlier pre-roman serif-less alphabets of the Etruscans and the Greeks.

Archival material, period books and antique print engravings were studied to provide the platform to revive a typeface that is fully representative of eighteenth century serif-less letterforms used to represent both the neoclassical and the ‘antique.’

An increasing rationalist ideology for architecture focused upon the precedents of the Roman from the 1740s. This ‘primitivism’ concentrates on the originality of Greek architecture as opposed to theories of an Etruscan origin that scholars have proffered since the late seventeenth-century. This academic argument resulted in Giovanni Battista Piranesi visually ‘demonstrating’ that Roman sensibility of serifs were added to the Etruscan, in an attempt to re-exert his architectural ethos and the dominance of Italy since the Renaissance.

In 1756 Piranesi completes the final plates of Le Antichità Romane to counter the growing argument of a Greek origin. Plate 25 Fig.1, plate 41 and the initial N to the section: ‘Explanation to the Aqueducts’ - present a near mono-line and geometrical letterform without serifs. A single capital ‘E’ is highlighted with the addition of component serifs as the source of the Roman.

This debate continues, through the 1760s and 70s, producing a number of important engravings depicting letterforms from antiquity. These provide source material for the revival of a primal eighteenth-century serif-less letterform, within the production of type specimens, an informative historical timeline and a new typeface - ‘ETRVSCA Sans’. Presented ‘in production’ at the annual international conference on type design: ATypI18 Type Legacies, in Antwerp, this font makes a pivotal contribution to type evolution and the origin of sans serif modernist typography.

Research Question(s): What would the primal sans typeface have looked like if it had been cast as metal type? How will this research inform a new commercially available primal sans typeface?

Researcher's Website:



Anglia Ruskin University