English sign painters of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries developed a bold lettering style for signboards and other announcements that featured low stroke contrast and blocky, unbracketed slab serifs. Antique typefaces are modeled on this lettering style.
Vincent Figgins showed the first typographic Antique (in metal) in his 1815 Specimen of Printing Type. His competitor William Thorowgood dubbed a very similar style of typeface Egyptian in his 1820 Thorowgood, (late Thorne,) Letter Founder. The Antique, or Egyptian, was widely used and immensely popular during the first half of the nineteenth century, and was quickly elaborated into a wide range of designs including French Antique, Grecian and Latin. The first instance of the Antique in wood type was in the first wood type specimen book ever produced, Darius Wells’ 1828 Darius Wells, Letter Cutter. All manufacturers of wood type produced a range of Antiques throughout the nineteenth century.
Clarendons are variations of Antique or Egyptian faces that were popular during the second half of the nineteenth century; they are characterized by higher contrast between thick and thin strokes and heavy, bracketed serifs.
Like Antiques and Egyptians, Clarendons are modeled on sign-painters’ lettering styles. The first typographic bracketed Antique was cast by the English foundry Blake & Stephenson in 1833, and given the name Ionic. Bracketed Antiques were called Ionics until 1845, when Robert Besley registered a heavier design with higher stroke contrast and named it Clarendon. The Clarendon style and name was immensely popular in numerous variations during the second half of the nineteenth century. One popular variation was the French Clarendon, which shared an inverted stroke stress with French Antiques and Italians.
The first instance of Clarendon produced in wood type was Clarendon Condensed by Bill, Stark & Co., in 1853. Wells & Webb showed both Clarendon and Clarendon Condensed in their 1854 Specimens of Wood Type. William Page first showed a French Clarendon as wood type in James Conner’s Sons Typographic Messenger, in November, 1865. All manufacturers of wood type produced a range of Clarendons throughout the nineteenth century, with French Clarendon being the dominant style.
Popular during the first half of the nineteenth century, Antique Tuscans are display faces characterized by contrasted strokes, rounded or pointed terminals, bi- or trifurcated serifs, and often a medial (midstem) decoration.
The form of Tuscan typefaces originated with inscriptional letters designed by Furius Dionysius Philocalus in the mid-fourth century. Though subordinate to more classical lettering styes, Tuscan styles persisted in inscriptional and calligraphic letters into the eighteenth century. Vincent Figgins showed the first typographic Tuscan in 1817. Edwin Allen produced the first wood type Tuscans, which were shown in George Nesbitt’s 1838 First Premium Wood Types Cut by Machinery. Tuscan styles remained popular into the 1850s in America.
In their 1849 Specimen of Wood Type, Wells & Webb introduced Tuscan Antique, a semi-ornamental Tuscan. This style originated as wood type and was popular into the 1890s. These semi-ornamental Tuscans, which became known as American Tuscans, supplanted the earlier European styles. They also tended to be undecorated letters, which, as Rob Roy Kelly described in American Wood Type, obtain a decorative quality from an active contour and generally include some visual ambiguity between letterform and counter.