An Interview with John Hudson

John Hudson, co-founder of Tiro Typeworks, world-class type designer and expert in font technology. Today it’s my honor to interview him and talk a little about the award-winning superfamily, Brill.

ILT: Thanks again for joining us, John. My first question for you is: Brill is a modern classic text typeface family. How did it come to be?

JH: Brill approached me initially in 2006, to discuss problems they were having in the typography of their books and journals. They’ve been in business since 1683, and used to cast their own types, but the transition to digital type had not been…

A collage of three portraits: Ida B. Wells, an anonymous man, and Frederick Douglass
A collage of three portraits: Ida B. Wells, an anonymous man, and Frederick Douglass

Printing arrived in the Americas in 1539, in Mexico City. A hundred years later, the first press, owned by Elizabeth Glover, was established in Cambridge Massachusetts shortly after the first slaves arrived in August 1619, in the then English colony of Virginia. Over the next 200 years print grew rapidly to cater for a burgeoning and increasingly literate population.

Stereotypes & Steam

The birth of African American printing and publishing coincides with a new momentum, a rising tide of anti-slavery and immediatist abolitionist movements weary of ‘indefinite deferral’. Their voices were disseminated and amplified through millions of printed pages of broadsides, pamphlets and…

Recently, in Granjon’s Beautiful Bastard, I touched briefly and tangentially on some of the earliest printed calligraphy manuals. Today we’ll take a look at two of the earliest ‘writing mistresses’ to have had their calligraphy copybooks* published in print.

* Whereas writing manuals usually provide some practical instruction (e.g. ductus, pen angle, writing materials, etc.), a copybook, as its name suggests, simply sets out calligraphy specimens for students to copy.

Throughout the long history of writing and copying texts, women have always been involved. Recent archaeological research and the discovery of blue pigment in the teeth of an eleventh-century German…

During the first half-century of printing in Europe ( c. 1450–1500), there were few restrictions on the printing trade, either on who could start a print-shop or on what they chose to print. Censorship of printed books got off to a rather slow start.

In 1475, the university of Cologne was granted permission from the Pope to censor liturgical or religious texts. Later, other measures were introduced to censor books sold at the Frankfurt book fair, but all attempts at censorship were limited in scope and geographical influence. Even when broader censorship was introduced, it was next to impossible to…

Type designers take care of the details so that we aren’t unnecessarily distracted by them. And good type designers relish those details. To listen to them explain their craft and describe their font-making processes is like watching the child of zero-sugar parents eat its first candy bar.

Anyway, this is the first in a new series of, I hope, monthly font reviews. Mostly they’ll be of recent releases, but from time to time, as the fancy takes me, I might just delve into the archives and pull out something neglected or underrated. …

The Origin of the Milky Way’, by Tintoretto, c. 1575–80

To the Egyptians, it was a reflection of the Nile; for the Babylonians, a giant serpent or length of rope. In Greek mythology, the infant Heracles was brought to suckle at the breast of a sleeping Hera, the goddess of childbirth. When she wakes, she pushes the child away and her milk splashes against the sky. The Romans, borrowing from the Greeks, called it via lactea, or ‘milky road’, and in English we know it as the Milky Way.

For Aristotle (384–322 BC), the Milky Way was a kind of fog and not very distant; and although Democritus (460 –…

For the best part of 2,000 years, the earth stood at the center of the universe. It did not move but was surrounded by a series of embedded transparent spheres. Each hollow sphere, for the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and an outermost sphere or firmament of fixed stars, rotated around our immobile earth — for two millennia, the cosmos literally revolved around us. …

Perhaps this article should have ended at the question mark in its title. And by the end of it, you may well concur. But, in the meantime, and before I get started — and I promise this won’t take long — let me be clear, I am not, I repeat, not (in bold for emphasis) a Helvetica hater.

Ostensibly, my only gripe with Helvetica (designed by Max Miedinger & Eduard Hoffmann) is not the typeface itself, but how — and how often — it is pressed into service. …

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