typeface for Century Illustrated Magazine,1891

What typeface was used for Century Illustrated Magazine in July, 1891? I have information that De Vinne introduced a new face designed by Benton in 1895, Century Roman, to his magazine to replace what had been in use. But I cannot find the name of that earlier typeface. Samples are available in Century Magazine articles of 1891 that can be found on the internet or in libraries, but I am not expert at identification. Can anyone help? If so, please also reply to my email address: [email protected]. Thanks.

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I have copies of The Century Magazine (which was subtitled “Illustrated Monthly”) from that era, as well as the original November 1895 issue where the Century typeface was first introduced. The transition from the old face to the new is amazing in the clarity and readability improvement.

I can’t find any specific references as to the specific name of the older text face, but I suspect that you are going to be very dissapointed because if positively identified it will probably have a mundane name like Small Pica No. 9 or something just as generic. I simply don’t have the time or the curiosity to slueth that one out for you. Almost all founderies of that era offered similar fonts so one would almost need to know which foundry supplied the type to the DeVinne Press to start the search and find their name for it.

An interesting tidbit along these lines is that although Lynn Boyd Benton is generally credited with the “design” of Century Roman, I suspect that may not be true at all. Benton was an engineer first and foremost with no experience before or after as a “type designer.” I believe that Theodore Low DeVinne knew full well what he was looking for in a better typeface and brought in Benton to cut such a face for him. I have no doubt that the two collaborated and trial proofs and corrections went back and forth, but I fully believe that Benton simply translated and passed along DeVinne’s directions to his staff, who did the actual cutting. Bottom line is that my best guess is that DeVinne drew it and Benton cut it.

Rick von Holdt

Page 376, “Plain Printing Types,” by Theodore Low DeVinne, 1914, p. 376: “Century Face…was modelled and cut by Mr. L. B. Benton, and is made on bodies of 10- 9- and 8-point by the American Type Founders Company.”

Thanks Stanislaus,

I still stand by my opinion. There is no question that the face was cut by Benton (actually ATF, using Benton’s new invention - which leads one to wonder if he really sat there and cut each character himself or directed an operator to do so). Does anyone else find the word “modelled” a little strange? If Benton had drawn or designed the face, why not simply say so? Modelled to me indicates that he was working from someone else’s plan or layout/design.


RICK: Yes, modelled is a strange word in this case. Perhaps we’ll get more info from other “typophiles” on this matter. 1898 ATF Desk Book shows nothing titled “Century.” 1912 and 1923 ATF books show all sorts of Century but not a mention of Century Magazine.

I would suggest buying a copy of “No Art Without Craft - The Life Of Theodore Low De Vinne” by Irene Tichenor (Published by David Godine).

The magazine was originally Scribner’s Illustrated, started in 1870, and changed over to the new type in the 1895. Pages 106-110 tell the story of the development of the Century face, cut by Linn Boyd Benton while at Inland Type Foundry based on designs done by De Vinne. Pg 106 describes the prior face as “Modified Old-Style”. Pages 35-38 describe how the contract with Century (nee Scribner’s) began while De Vinne was still working for Hart (the man who’s printing establishment he bought) about September of 1872.

The magazine later in 1902 switched away from Century to “Bruce Modernized Old Style No. 20” based on the view that the Century face was too dark and created too black of a page which diminished the look of the engraved illustrations.

A copy of the type specimens of the De Vinne Press from 1907 is available on Google Books here: http://books.google.com/books?id=nRSQ2EwtnMsC&pg=PA329&dq=bruce+foundry&...

Page 217 shows Bruce Modernized Old-Style #20 and page 152 is the beginning of the text/body types. Century Expanded shows up on page 250. The Tichenor book mentions that Linn Boyd Benton only cut Century Roman AKA Century Expanded (expanded upward as in extended x-height rather than horizontally expanded) and Century Broad Face (the horizontally extended version). Later, his son Morris Fuller Benton cut the extended family of ~20 other styles of Century. Inland and Benton referred to the face as Century Roman, while De Vinne called it Century Expanded. During the MFB era, one of the new faces was named “Century Expanded” which confused the earlier naming.

Google Books also has an earlier De Vinne Press specimen book here http://books.google.com/books?id=awFC5idamkQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=typ... dating from 1897. They mention “Modernized Old-Style” in the preface but do not show the face.


I’d say the “pre Century” face is “Modernized Old-Style”. Tichenor calls the face “Modified Old-Style” but the De Vinne Press Specimen Book only describes a face called “Modernized Old-Style”, so I’d go with the “Modernized Old-Style” moniker for the face.

Page 109 of Tichenor’s book claims that Bruce Modernized Old-Style #20 was in the De Vinne specimen books as early as 1877. If so, there is a distinct possibility that the Modernized Old Style used by Century Magazine prior to the use of the Century Roman face was Bruce Modernized Old Style #20, and in 1902 they actually reverted to the prior face away from the 7 year experiment with Century Roman. If someone has samples of Century and Scribner’s from the correct time periods, they could confirm whether this is true or not.

Also, the book claims De Vinne did the concept designs for Century and Benton cut and refined it.



One other thing, if comparing the “pre Century Roman” magazines with the “post Century Roman” magazines, check the paper carefully. One of the problems with the readability of “Modernized Old Style” was the paper. Somewhere along the line, De Vinnie was involved in developing/obtaining/using a much smoother (clay coated?) paper for the magazine. Since fine faces print better on smoother paper, perhaps reverting to Modernized Old Style in 1902 was possible with enhanced readability due to a change in paper. If so, the two examples may look at first glance to be different, but in fact upon close examination be the same face.

Alan, you are the MAN!!!!

Thank you very much for this insightful information. And thank you for pointing out the “No Art Without Craft” title, which I do not have.

Your great comments got me to thinking that I have a very old De Vinne Press type specimen book burried in my library. I went in there and dusted it off and sure enough I have a like-new copy of “The Roman and Italic Printing Types in the Printing House of Theodore L. De Vinne & Co.” which is dated 1891. It is 145 pages and all of them are full-page texts of each font, and almost all of them start out with a different multi-color intial.

At this early date each face is simply named by its size, like “Small Pica No. 11” or “Bourgeois No. 20”. The closest he comes to an actual ‘name’ is “Elzevir”.

Each sample page even tells how many lines and words fit onto the page, as well as the leading used.

It was a pure joy to peruse his wonderful book once again.

Thanks again Alan.