Lettering Alphabets—How Did Typography Look Like In The ’40s?

by . February 19th, 2015

Have you ever wondered how typography looked like pre-modern internet?

Pretty much the same actually. The only difference is that they didn’t have computers back then (at least, for typography).

17 - 4SOuOiY

Redditor Hitchslappy uploaded some of his grandfather’s old design books, including Lettering Alphabetsa book of typefaces published in 1942. Aimed at “draughtsmen, advertisement designers, architects and artists”, the book featured almost a hundred different typefaces used in several printing techniques.

You might recognize some of the typefaces here, such as Futura, Gill Sans, and Onyx.  Most of our modern typefaces have medieval roots, starting from Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press. Eventually, typesetters drew inspiration from inscriptions on Roman buildings and monuments, such as Trajan Column.

The Renaissance saw the rise of a cursive form which became the model for the Italic type. The Industrial Revolution increased the speed of the manufacturing process and the distribution of new typefaces.

But one thing holds true throughout the history of typography—a good typeface stands the test of time.

Check out some excerpts from the book scan here:

02 - Front Page

03 - A list of typefaces

12 - Yd9qB2A 62 - lk05Fg8 61 - bzvLLGz 45 - H1S9OUf 38 - OoOFTO4 30 - M5fsYl1 27 - 1OcChsd 18 - LpS2Uzj 13 - gGW7aTa

For the rest of the album, check out the imgur post below: Do you have some old books on design and typography? We’d love to check them out. Comment below!


Kevin is a reader first, a writer second, and a gamer somewhere in between. When not rooting for Tyrion Lannister for the Iron Throne, he's probably writing some morbid short story. He enjoys some surreal art, clever advertising campaigns, and a warm cup of coffee while reading Murakami.