Perpetua: by Royal Appointment

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As I watched on TV the congregation leaving Westminster Abbey after the Queen’s funeral last week I noticed that most were carrying a copy of the printed Order of Service. Such is the speed of modern communications, I was able to find a downloadable PDF on the website within a minute or two. Well done those royal flunkeys responsible.

The use of Perpetua Bold on the cover caught my eye, although the Times Roman setting beneath for the dateline grated. Inside I was pleased to see that the Perpetua theme was carried on throughout, with a nice use of spaced caps, drop caps and italic.

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Perpetua was in fact used for the last great State occasion in Westminster Abbey, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I remembered this because I have a copy of the special edition of the Monotype Recorder celebrating the life and work of Stanley Morison, and I recalled that it showed the covers of the Orders of Service for the Coronations of both George VI and Elizabeth II, as seen below:

Morison Monotype

(I have taken the above illustration from the collection of PDFs of the Monotype Recorder on the wonderful Metaltype website.)

Sadly, I couldn’t find the full Coronation Order of Service online, although I did come across a couple of images. One, on the Parliament website, shows a handsome double page spread:

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The second is just a snippet of one page, on a University of Nottingham blog:


There are a couple of things about this second image which makes it different from the Parliament version. The text is in black only and the section heading is in u/lc rather than caps. The Nottingham blog from which I sourced the image says that it is from the “Music with the Form and Order of Service”, so perhaps this was a different publication for use by the choirs and musicians.

But what is the same about both is that they are typeset in Perpetua, with a lovely long-tailed Q which I imagine was specially cut. I’m guessing that it was set in Monotype, but I’m not enough of an expert to be certain. The 2022 digital version is a faithful reproduction.

Perpetua is a lovely typeface, and looks splendid when used for this kind of setting. However, in my view, it never really works in books – there is something about its idiosyncrasies which makes continuous reading difficult.

We’ll see next year whether it’s used for Charles III’s Coronation. It would be nice if it is. But I wonder if he might issue one of his ‘black spider’ decrees that some other type be chosen? On a recent visit to Poundbury in Dorset, with its ‘feudal Disneyland’ architecture, I didn’t spot any evidence of an interest in typography or lettering.


Type on the streets: Cooper Black

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There must be something about the Cooper Black typeface that encourages typographic nominative determinism. A mere three short years after my first post on this subject, I have recently spotted another commercial concern by the name of Cooper which uses its namesake typeface.

Step forward, as John Junor used to say, Cooper Insulation of Kells, Co Meath. Above is one of their vans, photographed in Sundrive Road, Dublin, a few hundred yards from my house. And here is the company website, featuring a number of lorries and vans decked out in the corporate colours.

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Choosing a typeface because of its “accidental association” is disapproved of by most eminent typographic writers, notably Robert Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style (Hartley & Marks, second edition 1997). Here the great man writes:

Choose faces whose individual spirit and character is in keeping with the text.
Accidental associations are rarely a good basis for choosing a typeface. Books of poems by the twentieth-century Jewish American poet Marvin Bell, for example, have sometimes been set in Bell type – which is eighteenth-century, English and Presbyterian – solely because of its name. Puns of this kind are a private amusement for typographers. But a typographic page so well designed that it attains a life of its own must be based on something more than an inside joke. (p.99)

However, it must be said that Cooper Black and its associated italic are fine typefaces, and often used in display advertising and logo design. So who’s to say that it doesn’t fit the bill in this case? (See its original promotional ad from 1922 below, found in an article on Medium.) But you can’t help feeling that the designer who chose it for this client didn’t have have a little chuckle to themselves as they did so.

Cooper AmPrinter ad

Type on the street: Cooper Black Italic

Typographic nominative determinism, captured through my windscreen yesterday afternoon. I simply had to stop my drive home and pull up behind this coach. The coach company’s website gives us another blast of the great Cooper Black, this time in the Roman, backed up with a little Brush Script.  Oooh Mr Designer, you are truly spoiling us.

Swashing down Hill Street

Near the top of my personal list of typefaces never to be used is Bookman. (Also present: Souvenir, University Roman, Eurostile.) So it was with some pain that most weeks throughout  the 1980s I sat through the opening credits in order to watch one of the best TV cop shows of all time. I refer, of course, to Hill Street Blues, whose creator Steven Bochco has recently died.

Great TV it might have been (as indeed was its successor, NYPD Blue) but I only just forgave the producers the use of (ugh) Bookman Bold Italic, with extra swashes, for the title sequences. Most episodes started with the day’s briefing, given by the desk sergeant, which always ended: ‘Let’s be careful out there.’ A good motto for life.

Type on the street: Westminster/Data 70

Westminster was a typeface designed by Leo Maggs in the 1960s, based on the typeface created for the Westminster Bank for cheque scanning in the early days of optical character recognition. See this article for more about its design. That’s why every single letterform is so different from the rest.
In 1970, Letraset released its own typeface called Data 70 which was ‘closely related’ to Westminster. (That’s the way things worked back then.) Westminster was released by Microsoft in various versions of Windows, such as Windows 98.

Photographed in Anstruther, Fife, on 1 May 2017. The shop was closed.

See Fonts in Use for more examples of Westminster and/or Data 70.