The Eternal Letter edited by Paul Shaw

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The Eternal Letter edited by Paul Shaw

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Publisher’s Synopsis:
This generously illustrated book examines the enduring influence of the classical Roman capital letter - arguably, the Western world's most influential export. Nothing else, not even the rule of law, has been so widely embraced.

Despite the predominance of sans serif typefaces, printed matter is still dominated by serif typefaces, most notably Times Roman. Even in the digital era, screen-based communication is full of examples of serif typefaces. One of the most popular in current use is Adobe Trajan, an exact replica of the letters inscribed at the base of Trajan's column two thousand years ago and now widely used to advertise films. It has spawned dozens of other interpretations.

Written by some of the most highly regarded practitioners in the fields of typography, lettering, and stone carving, The Eternal Letter explores the many variations of the classical Roman capital letter, discussing the subtleties of the original, its different iterations over the years, and the work of famous typographers and craftsmen. Topics covered include the efforts to calculate a geometric formulation of the Trajan letters; the recalculation of their proportions by early typefounders; the development and astonishing popularity of Adobe Trajan; type and letter designs by Father Edward M. Catich, Frederic W. Goudy, Eric Gill, Jan van Krimpen, Hermann Zapf, Matthew Carter, and others, the influence of Trajan in Russia; and three generations of lettercarvers at the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island. Essays about modern typefaces-including Matinia, Senatus, and Penumbra-are contributed by the designers of these typefaces.

Paul Shaw, an award-winning graphic designer, typographer, and calligrapher in New York City, teaches at Parsons School of Design and the School of VisuaI Arts. The designer or co-designer of eighteen typefaces, he is the co-author of Blackletter: Type and National Identity and the author of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System (MIT Press). He writes about letter design in the blog Blue Pencil.

Contributors: John and Nicholas Benson, Frank E. Blokland, Matthew Carter; Ewan Clayton, Lance Hidy, Jost Hochuli, Jonathan Hoefler, Richard Kindersley, Scott-Martin Kosofsky, Gerry Leonidas, Martin Majoor, Steve Matteson, Gregory MacNaughton, James Mosley, Tom Perkins, Yves Peters, Ryan L. Roth, Werner Schneider, Paul Shaw, Julian Waters, and Maxim Zhukov

What others have said about this book:
This remarkable volume is the most comprehensive. most thoughtful, and most entertaining examination of a single set of letters I've ever read. The very notion that 1,900-year-old letters will be used to advertise a blockbuster at your local multiplex next week-end is astonishing, and is testimony to the enduring power of the classical Roman capital." Michael Bierut, partner, Pentagram, author, Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design.

The Roman capitals are the true test that type designers will ignore at their peril. This volume sets the standard for all books that will ever be written on the topic. What an amazing resource! So much research, knowledge, and love have gone into it. It will be on the top of my desk from now on. If I had to read The Eternal Letter forty years ago, I might have been too scared to begin trying to design type." Erik Spiekermann type designer; author of Stop Stealing Sheep.

This long-awaited publication is all that I hoped it would be: extremely well-researched and illustrated, beautifully designed, and like the classical Roman letter itself, able to stand the test of time. Peter Bil’ak, founder, Typotheque

Booksellers comments:
I could spend hours and consume pages going through the virtues of this amazing publication, but I have decided that if I list the contents and contributors, you will be in doubt that this is a unique, one of a kind, must have book.

Subjects covered are:
  • The Eternal Letter: The Fluctuating Fortunes of the Classical Roman Capital by Paul Shaw
  • Defining the Classical Roman Capital by Paul Shaw
  • Father Edward M. Catich and the Trajan Inscription by Paul Shaw
  • The Genetrix by Father Edward M. Catich
  • The Trajan Secrets by Tom Perkins
  • Walter Kamech, Craftsman by Jost Hochuli
  • On the Origin of Capital Proportions in Roman Type by Frank E. Blokland
  • Felice Feliciano and the Inscriptions on the Macello of Verona by James Mosley
  • The Tomb of Niccoló Forteguerri by Paul Shaw & Garrett Boge
  • The Baroque Inscriptional Letter in Rome by James Mosley
  • The Baroque Set by Garrett Boge
  • Goudas Inscriptional Letters by Steve Matteson
  • Eric Gill’s Capital Letter by Ewan Clayton
  • Ian van Krimpen and Roman Capitals by Martin Majoor
  • Hermann Zapf’s Roman Capitals: An Appreciation by Paul Shaw
  • The Trajan Letter in Russia by Maxim Zhukov
  • Gill’s Legacy by Ewan Clayton
  • Straight, No Chaser: The Work of Michael Harvey by Paul Shaw
  • The John Stevens Shop: Three Generations of Lettercarvers by Richard Kindersley
  • Penumbra: The Offspring of Trajan and Futura by Lance Hidy
  • Father Catich at Reed College by Gregory MacNaughton
  • Democratizing the Empire: The Birth of Adobe Trajan by Scott-Martin Kosofsky
  • Trajan Revived Redux by Paul Shaw / Maxim Zhukov / Gerry Leonidas
  • Artist of the Written Word by Paul Shaw
  • The Origins of Senatus by Werner Schneider With Dan Reynolds
  • Mantinia by Matthew Carter
  • Requiem: A True Renaissance Letter by Jonathan Hoefler
  • Waters Titling by Julian Waters
  • Trajan at the Movies by Yves Peters
  • Learning from Chairs by Cyrus Highsmith
  • Typefaces with Classical Roman Influences: 1900 – 2012
  • Census of Trajan Inscription Reproductions
  • Selected Collections of Roman Inscriptions
  • Further Reading on Roman Capitals
  • Recording Inscriptions: Methods and Tips
  • Acknowledgments I Credits I Contributors


1st edition, 2015, hardback, 258pp, full colour throughout with over 380 photographs, 30cm

Pre-order now for delivery on publication date.



The Eternal Letter edited by Paul Shaw
£37.95 EUR 46.78