Archived entries for French Clarendon XX Condensed
In previous posts (see Oh K), I have called this design French Clarendon XX Condensed. While the design is without a doubt a French Clarendon, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company, the maker of this font, called it No. 95.
The capital K posted on January 16 had a crude abbreviation cut into the foot of the block. Surprisingly, this capital M seems to have been a previous attempt at an ad hoc August abbreviation. Notice the multiple starter holes created by a drill or drill press. A shocking amount of work was completed before the realization that the right-reading letters would not work for a relief printing process.
4 line French Clarendon XX Condensed
Get out your line gauges boys and girls – this little guy is two picas shy of an inch (4 lines/picas = 48 points). I only have one other font of wood type this small, but it’s a bold Gothic and it looks huge by comparison. The elongated, bracketed serifs that characterize the French Clarendons seem even more disproportionate at this scale. The A’s have a Vanderburgh, Wells & Co., New York imprint (see below), dating this type to 1867–1890.
Varying screen sizes and monitor resolutions make it difficult to accurately show the size of individual wood type blocks and respective proofs. But I feel compelled in this case to provide a sense of scale. The penny in the image below was scanned simultaneously with the proof of the V.
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.