Victorian era Letterforms

Good evening.

I am a first semester Design student from Mexico looking for visual reference for late 19th century types and letterform designs.

I was fortunate enough to find some good listings (and samples of the most popular ones like Kismet and Nymphic) by John F. Cumming, Hermann Ihlenburg and from the Mackellar Smiths & Jordan foundry. On the latter I was particularly pleased to find this web site ( ) which list a good number of types featured in the “The Compact Book of Specimens”.

Now my problem is that I have yet to find any sort of on-line visual reference for a lot of these, as some don’t seem to have been digitalized yet (to my knowledge). I found quite a few ’variations’ though but not much examples of the originals.

Seeing as this is a good place to ask for assistance I humbly request any sort of URL with data or images of letterforms and typefaces from that period, as I will be trying to list them for part of a presentation by image example, name, year of patent and designer.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you very much.

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I think the sheer range of Ihlenburg’s work is just amazing. I have always been fascinated by his stuff. The Cary Library at RIT has an archive of personal files of his, including sketches of unpublished work. But I don’t think any of that is online. There was also a nice article by David Pankow on Ihlenburg’s work that appeared in “The Ampersand” vol 13 number 3-4, Fall/Winter 1993-94.

I don’t know if that helps any.



Online resources are difficult to locate; however, you can purchase some excellent reproduction specimen books from David Peat for quite reasonable prices ($4-20 each, with multi-unit discounts available). Send him an SASE to get a catalog sheet at 1225 Carroll White Drive, Indianapolis IN 46219; or you can get a partial listing and Mr. Peat’s email address here.

My suggestion is to use some of the font sites that allow searching by keywords, such as, and use terms like ’19th century’, Art Nouveau. Victorian, Old West, Antique and see what you find. There are many designers/digitizers, like Dan Solo, Nick Curtis, Jim Spiece, George Williams, David Nalle and others who have mined the 19th century for many designs. The problem is that only some of them are good about documenting the sources.

If you have some good books, such as the Dover book by Ludwig Petzendorfer called ’Treasury of Authentic Art Nouveau Alphabets’, then it is usually pretty easy to correlate the fonts to their original typefaces.

  • Mike Yanega
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