We have been looking at the Arts & Craft movement as it relates to architecture in the office lately which put me in the mind of the way movements affect design change across multiple disciplines. Along with his many other interests, William Morris turned his love of book design into the creation of his own Kelmscott Press and the design of multiple typefaces. While influenced by a love of early printed books, the books he created seemed as if they could have stepped out of the past while also feeling modern and reflecting the influence of the Arts & Craft.

In the book “The Eternal Letter, Two Millennia of the Classical Roman Capital”, Paul Shaw shows the enduring but roller coaster influence of the letters traced from the base of the Trajan column. Eric Gill, Frederic Goudy and others were influenced by the “capitalis monumentalis” and Morris took that influence and married it with the Arts & Crafts movement creating something unique.

The forum of Trajan with Trajan’s column, c. 1860-1870

It is a fascinating book largely because it shows the thread of the influence of the Roman capitals from the Trajan column as it weaves through history and type as we know it today. The serif all caps typeface Adobe Trajan was designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly directly based on the Roman letters from the base of Trajan’s Column. The enduring appeal is undeniable and continues to inspire and remain relevant.

Balancing the stately gravity of the roman capitals with the influence of nature and classical books, the books reflected the struggle against poorly designed books of the industrial revolution.

  

Calling your typeface golden is certainly not without hubris, but in this case I think Morris’s accomplishes so much within his pages. The imagery interacting with the type and enhancing the impact of the story, all the while maintaining the legibility and integrity of the written word. Golden indeed.