Bell 14-point

A quarter strength jobbing fount of 14-point Bell.

Bell is the first English modern face, and one of extraordinary dignity and charm. It was no antiquarian interest, but appreciation of a masterly type that led Bruce Rogers to save from the melting-pot an old fount of unknown origin and to use it in some of his most beautiful Riverside Press books the face which he called Brimmer. Updike admired these types and traced their history to Stephenson Blake & Company from whom he obtained strikes for his own casting. But it was not until 1926 that examination of a copy of the Address to the World by Mr Bell, British Library, Strand, London showed their true origin.

John Bell (1745-1831) was the leading journalist and newspaper proprietor, the most courageous bookseller, almost the only publisher of important editions de luxe, and the most influential typographer of his day. The Bell type, although undoubtedly French in the proportion of its letters, reflects its native insularity: it was in fact Bell’s intention to ‘retrieve and exalt the neglected art of printing in England.’ Much credit is due to Richard Austin, the engraver of the punches, for achieving the unique sharpness of taper which was given to all serifs; and it is this finely tapered and bracketed that became in due time an essential part of the Anglo-Scottish modern face.

The Monotype Corporation in collaboration with Stephenson Blake & Company cut Series 341 in 1931-2 as an exact facsimile of the original. It proved increasingly popular with publishers particularly for the composition of the more literary sort of book, for it has the great virtues of compactness and relative legibility, combined with an elegance and charm that are lacking in later modern faces.

Bell has less colour and is sharper and narrower than Baskerville. The letters are large on the body with a stress that is almost, but not consistently vertical. The capitols are slightly pronounced in weight and a fraction lower than the ascenders. The italic is regular, cursive and closely set. An original feature of Bell’s type was that the figures ranged with each other instead of differing in height.

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