History of Typography Timeline

History of Typography
Key people and events from 1800 BC through Present Day

1800 BC: The typographical principle, that is the creation of a complete text by reusing identical characters, is first realized in the Phaistos Disc, an enigmatic Minoan print item from Crete, Greece, which dates between 1850 and 1600 BC.

1200 BC: The Phoenicians gain independence from the Egyptians and develop their own alphabet--the first to be composed exclusively of letters.

732 : Charlemagne orders a system of writing called the Caroline miniscule which had the first versions of lowercase letters that were not just small versions of uppercase letters.

1440 : Typography, type-founding, and typeface design begin as closely related crafts in mid-15th century Europe due to the introduction of movable type printing at the junction
of the medieval era and the Renaissance. Handwritten letter forms of the mid-15th century embodied 3000 years of evolved letter design, and were the natural models for letter forms in systematized typography. The scribal letter known as textur or textualis, produced by the strong gothic spirit of blackletter from the hands of German area scribes, served as the model for the first text types.

1455 : Johannes Gutenberg employs the scribe Peter Schoffer to help design and cut the
letterpunches for the first typeface—the D-K type of 202 characters used to print the first books in Europe.

1474 : The rapid spread of movable type printing across Europe produces additional Gothic, half-Gothic and Gothic-to-roman transitional types. Johann Bamler’s Schwab acher, Augsburg appears.

1476 : In 1476 William Caxton prints the first books in England with a so-called Bâtarde type
(an early Schwabacher design), but soon abandons the process.

1490: Claude Garamond from France develops the first true printing typeface not designed to imitate handwriting, but instead draws on rigid geometric principles. Garamond also begins the tradition of naming the typeface after himself.

1500: A printer by the name of Aldus Manutius invents the concept of pocket or portable books. In
addition, he also creates the first Italic typeface (one of the first typeface variations).

1557 : In order to simulate handwriting, Robert Granjon develops the first cursive typeface.

1734: William Caslon issues a typeface (bearing his name) which includes straighter serifs and greater contrast between the major and minor strokes.

1757: The first transitional roman typeface is introduced by John Baskerville. This typeface increased the contrast between thick and thin strokes, had a nearly vertical stress in the counters, as well as very sharp serifs.

1780: Firmin Didot and Giambattista Bodoni of Italy develop the first modern romans. The moderns carry
the transitionals to the extreme: thin strokes can be described as hairlines and they have a fully vertical stress.

1815: Vincent Figgins designs a typeface with square serifs-these later become known as slab serifs.

1816: William Caslon IV produces the first typeface without serifs of any kind, however this sans serif
style is ridiculed at the time.

1920: In addition to creating the Broadway typeface, Frederic Goudy develops several other innovative designs and becomes the world’s first full-time type designer.

1925: Herbert Bayer Is appointed the head of a newly created workshop for print and advertising at the Dessau Bauhau. It is here that he designs universal typefaces which are later adapted into Bauhaus fonts.

1931: ‘The Times’ newspaper commissions Stanley Morison to produce a new easy-to-read typeface for their publication--Times New Roman.

1954: A Swiss artist, Max Miedinger, creates Helvetica, the most popular typeface of our time. He is also the first designer to champion the use of white space as a design element.

1955: Howard Kettler designs Courier for IBM; which becomes the most popular typeface used on typewriters for 30 years.

1964: The first digital typesetter (Digiset) is invented by Rodolf Hell and used to produce the first
digital font, Digital Grotesk.

1985 - Adobe invents PostScript: the system which uses mathematical calculations to describe typefaces versus relying on pixel by pixel definitions of fonts.

1989: Apple and Microsoft reject Adobe’s offer of PostScript and begin a joint project to create their own font technology called Truetype. Although Truetype is not as clean or reliable as PostScript, its creation allowed for an explosion in font design.

1996 : OpenType, a cross-platform font file format, is developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft. Besides being supported by multiple platforms, it also supported expanded character sets and layout features. Also, Matthew Carter designs Verdana and Georgia for Microsoft. Both fonts proved to retain their legibility even at very small sizes on a screen.

2012 © Amy K Hunnel (

History of Typography Timeline

shared by ahunnel on Aug 20, 2012 in History


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A timeline which details some of the key events in Typography from 1800 B.C. through 1996.
Category: History


Amy K Hunnel
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