The digitization of the Fell Types began in 2000. Three books were used as source:
- Stanley Morison: “THE ROMAN ITALIC & BLACK LETTER bequeathed to University of Oxford by Dr. JOHN FELL,” Oxford University Press, 1951
- Stanley Morison: “JOHN FELL The University Press and the ‘Fell’ Types,” Oxford University Press, 1967
- Horace Hart: “Notes on a Century of Typography at the University Press Oxford, 1693-1794,” Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1970
The first and second are printed using the original types on modern paper. Most of the samples are taken from them. The third is a facsimile from the original of 1900, edited by Harry Carter. Only a few samples for the “De Walpergen Pica” were taken from it. To avoid altering the original cut, particularly for glyphs that were “ink poor,” many images were digitized for each glyph and the best examples used. In his “The Fell Types–What has been done in and about them” (Oxford University Press, New York, 1968), Harry Carter said: «Technical imperfection is undoubtedly part of the character of ‘Fell’ in print. The pieces of type differ in height to an extent that horrifies a type-founder and tries the patience of a machine manager; their faces are not horizontal, many are not struck at the correct angle with the vertical. By employing modern techniques it would be possible to put these things right, but so far nobody dares propose it; too much of the evident difference between Fell and other types would be lost». Glyphs not found in the source materials were created and added to the original set, which now covers Western, Central Europe, Baltic and Turkish languages. Particular care has been taken to achieve a good fitting quality using the autospacing and autokerning tool iKern.
THE ENGLISH ROMAN AND ITALIC
Morison, in the 1951 book, said: «Tradition has it that the smaller sizes derive more or less from the same source; consequently these too have been regarded as of Dutch cutting. But to the trained eye the english roman with small capitals is in a finer, an earlier, and a French Tradition. It has the capital M with spreading, instead of vertical, supports, while the fount as a whole reaches so high a level in design and in cutting that it has only to be placed side by side with the larger bodies to reveal their comparative amateurishness».
THE DE WALPERGEN TYPEFACES
Harry Carter noted about the De Walpergen typefaces: «The style of type that is apt to come in mind when ‘Fell’ is mentioned is that of the Romans and Italics made for him at Oxford, from Great Primer upwards. They have a peculiar character, distinguishing work done in them and giving it an unmistakable Oxford flavour».
THREE LINES PICA
DE WALPERGEN’S PICA
THE FELL FLOWERS
Continues Harry Carter: «Fell bought fifty-three matrices for ‘flower work’ from Holland in 1672, and his bequest to the University contains the finest collection of early printer’s flowers now in existence, many of them unique. These ornaments have been prominent in printing in Fell Types in recent years and are firmly associated with them in the minds of modern bibliophiles. In this field Robert Granjon is the acknowledged master. He was the first to make type for arabesque ornament. In Fell’s collection there are several examples of the stylised leaves and simple arabesques that he made early in his career to put between lines on title pages. Later he turned to making units designed for repetition to build up vignettes, headbands, and borders; and Fell’s gift includes some of his design. Either the originals or early copies of them».
REASONS FOR A REVIVAL
First of all: Love. Love for the beauty of these typefaces, which I never tire of looking at. From the moment I first saw these typefaces, I wanted to use them, so began learning how to build a typeface. And after having digitized them I begun to think about a way to space them (it was so difficult): this analysis led to iKern, the autospacing and autokerning tool I’ve developed since 2002. I can certainly say that without the Fell Types iKern wouldn’t exist: Their typographic “errors” (variable serifs from letter to letter, even inside the same letter, inconsistent heights and slant angles, different weights and many other amenities and lovely strangeties) have pushed me to a deep generalization of the mathemathical model avoiding shortcuts and suggesting paths I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1.