Wayzgoose Weekend Report No. 5

It’s not everyday one can witness a master sign painter at work, unless it’s everyday of the Wayzgoose. Saturday, November 5 was Don Black’s birthday, so after Rick Griffith printed an appropriately fabulous, oversized birthday card, John Downer added his version of Aetna. The card was signed by many of the Wayzgoose attendees and presented to Don during Saturday evening’s festivities.

During the Hatch Show Print workshop on Saturday, I caught Bill Jones printing. What do Bill and John Downer have in common?

Bill has been working on reviving Aetna via Virgin Wood Type. His awesome, five-panel accordion business card features 5 line Aetna capitals in brilliant blue.


5 line Aetna


Like all the best typefaces, Aetna was designed to fulfill a certain purpose. In this case, printers of the late nineteenth century needed a modulated serif robust enough to function as a display face and withstand the wear and tear of job printing.

Hi 5!

5 line Aetna

This robust Roman appeared in a specimen from 1870 by William H. Page was first shown as wood type by William H. Page in James Conner’s Sons Typographic Messenger, Vol.7 No.3 (July, 1872) – sincerest thanks to David Shields for the correction (see the link in Shields’ comment). The number of patents held by Page for ornamental Chromatics (type faces made to print in two or more colors) based on this face led Rob Roy Kelly  to believe Aetna may have originated with Page & Company. Based on the imprint (rubbing shown below) found on the A’s – used between 1857 and 1859 – this may be oldest font in my collection.

Page & Co., Greenville, CT imprint; used 1857–1859

Jonathan Hoefler twice¹ wondered² about the fascination artists have with the number five. Aside from the religious and spiritual symbolism, and mathematical significance, the 5 is arguably the most formally beautiful numeral. In most faces, it is comprised of a harmonious combination of linear and curvilinear strokes. Aetna’s 5 exhibits extreme contrast between thicks and thins, flamboyant stroke modulation, and a rotund ball terminal – unequivocally sexy, and without a doubt my favorite number.

¹ Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 11
² Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 14