24 January 2010

Puritans & Baroque Type

To pick up from my last entry (in which there was much gratuitous finger pointing and some commentary on D’Anvers’ A Treatise of Baptism) I offer now, gentle reader, one of the hundred-some works which the Massachusetts-born Puritan preacher and Harvard president Increase Mather (1639–1723) published during his lifetime, and which I photographed on the same day I saw D’Anvers’ book.

This book was first published in 1675 under the title The Wicked Mans Portion, but it was the second edition I examined. It was printed by Richard Pierce at Boston in 1685 for the bookseller Joseph Brunning (a.k.a ‘Browning’) of Court Street. The second edition has a compelling title: A Sermon (Preached at the Lecture in Boston in New England the 18th of the 1 Moneth 1674 When two men were Executed, who had Murthered their Master) Wherein is Shewed That Excess in Wickedness doth bring Untimely Death. A cautionary tale in which comeuppance is central.

The quality of the printing and composition of Mather’s Boston-printed book are similar to D’Anvers’ book, which was printed in London – an impressive fact given that the first book to be printed in New England had appeared only four decades earlier, in 1640. Mather’s book occasionally slips into uneven inking and impression and lackluster justification, but it begins with a smart-looking if simple title page which is superior to D’Anvers’, and the handling of the ornaments at Mather’s chapter headings makes graceful use of simple sorts.

The typefaces employed by these two printers on different sides of the Atlantic are strikingly similar in form and style, suggesting common sources. They are Baroque in flavour, with a widely varying axis of stroke, a high degree of slope in the italic, large x-height, and a small aperture. Like the French and Dutch types of this period, their beauty resides partly in their irregularity.


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