Oh K


24 line (4 inches) French Clarendon XX Condensed

French Clarendon is a derivative of the Antique category of wood types. Along with Antique Tuscan, Grecian, Latin, French Egyptian Antique, Aldine, Columbian, Ionic, and French Clarendon, the derivatives of Antique are the most prevalent of the nineteenth-century wood type styles. The condensed versions of these faces, like this XX Condensed, dominated  poster design at the end of the century. Their bold, almost monoweight stems, elongated serifs (they often look like they’ve been stretched), and compact character width allowed for taller letters to be used, maximizing visual impact.

This K is special. An abbreviated spelling of August has been carved into the bottom of the letter. This was not an uncommon practice among creative, fiscally-minded, commercial printers. The end grain of the wood is quite durable and provides ample room to carve additional letters, even illustrations. Because the bottom of the letters were not sanded smooth and finished with shellac, the grain of the wood is prevalent when inked and printed. Here is a printed proof of the bottom of this K:

And a composite photograph showing the top and bottom of the character. Notice the roughness of the carving, clearly aided by a drill bit:

The A’s in this font are stamped with a circular imprint from The Hamilton Manufacturing Company that was used between 1889–1891. Rob Roy Kelly shows three different imprints from Hamilton. This circular version is unique among them; it’s the only one to show Chicago as a location.