About this project
Help me rescue this funky cool typeface from becoming forgotten history!
Cristoforo is my name for a trio of new fonts: two are reviving classic American-Victorian art nouveau metal types by Hermann Ihlenburg: Columbus (1892), Columbus Initials (upright swash capitals) and the italic companion American Italic (1902) and American Italic Initials, while the third font is related symbols and stand-alone swashes that may be useful. You can see specimens of the source typefaces on my blog.
UPDATE: Help me reach the stretch goal(s) of Greek support! Yes, the project was funded at $6400. The first stretch goal of $7,500 meant I’ll be adding support for Central European language support, Reaching $10,000 meant I will do Cyrillic as well.
I was reluctant to add Greek, because Greek lowercase is challenging to do well. But I do like a challenge and it would be cool to have full pan-European language support. So here are the final stretch goals for Cristoforo and what I will add at each new pledge total!
$10,750: Greek caps
$12,000: Greek lowercase
$13,000 full-on polytonic Greek (useful for scholars and pre-1982 book reprints)
See the FAQ below for more details on the stretch goals.
If this project looks familiar, it’s because I tried it on Kickstarter a month ago and only reached 60% of the target, meaning no funding at all happened. But I’m nothing if not tenacious, so I am trying again with newly reconfigured rewards, including new personal-use font licenses at $12, or $24 for all three fonts! Full commercial-use license for all three fonts with all their alternate glyphs and goodies remains at $48. Remember that regular commercial-quality fonts of this level run $30-$35 per font style (e.g. Adobe’s Pro fonts such as my own Hypatia Sans Pro), so a trio could cost you around $100.
If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, scroll down to the FAQ and learn more about how it works.
Why is Cristoforo needed?
Columbus and American Italic were classic typefaces by a master craftsman. But there's never been a decent digital version of these fonts. With Cristoforo, I want to make a pair of professional quality digital fonts, complete both in standard character coverage and in having many assorted alternate letter shapes. For example, the graphic you click on for the video shows the swash alternate versions of C, V and R originally available in Columbus Initials. Cristoforo Regular is slated to have at least 300 glyphs! See more about the extras I am adding in my update to the original project. See the FAQ below for more on quality.
Who should back Cristoforo?
- fans/collectors of classic Americana
- fans/collectors of Victorian-era design as seen anywhere in the world
- graphic designers and typographers
- fans and designers working with/for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game
H.P. Lovecraft & Call of Cthulhu
Cristoforo has a huge history here. Its predecessor, Columbus, was the typeface used to create the logo for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game, inspired by the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. The Call of Cthulhu RPG first appeared in 1981, and for over a decade Columbus appeared on the covers of not only the game rulebook, but also a couple of dozen supplemental books and adventures. After falling out of use on supplements in the 1990s, it has still continued to be the primary game logo to the present day, with only a couple of brief interruptions. Thus Columbus has an iconic status among many fans of Call of Cthulhu and/or H.P. Lovecraft. The game introduced many to Lovecraft’s fiction. The Call of Cthulhu campaign adventure Masks of Nyarlathotep, which I designed most of the “clues” for, remains the highest-rated campaign or adventure ever published for any role-playing game. Here are a few of the Call of Cthulhu books using Columbus.
What's that black book at the top of the picture, holding the others at a handy angle? I hand bound a copy of the rulebook, hardcover in leather. Why, yes, I am that obsessive. You want that in a type designer, trust me.
Americana & Cracker Jack
Cristoforo also has a key link to classic Americana. Its predecessor, Columbus, was the typeface used as the basis for the original logo for Cracker Jack (the candied peanut and popcorn snack), back in the 1890s. The candy was such a basic part of the baseball stadium experience that it was immortalized in the hit 1908 song, still sung today at most major league baseball games, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game":
“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack...”
It’s funny to me that the logo is really a degraded form of the typeface, clearly designed or modified by somebody who didn't understand lettering very well. Letters like “e” and “c” should dip slightly below the flat bottoms of other letters to look the same height, but they don’t... and as a result they look like they are floating a little higher than their neighbors.
Although the logo has since been updated and modernized, the current version still shows the influence of the original letterforms.
Short version: see for yourself in this http://www.thomasphinney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Cristoforo-vs-others.pdf. That doesn't even get into things like spacing, character set, or other key issues.
Details: There are two other revivals of Columbus that I know of. First, there’s a free version of Columbus called by its original name, http://www.fontspace.com/sam-wang/columbus, by a fellow named Sam Wang. There’s also an $18 commercial font called http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/scriptorium/beaumarchais/ from Scriptorium.
Each of the previous attempts consists of about 100 glyphs (letter shapes) per font, whereas a standard character set today consists of about 240. For Cristoforo, due to alternate forms and their accented versions, I plan about 300 glyphs per font (potentially many more, depending on language support). Of these about 100 are in passable shape right now in the upright face—I haven't started the italic.
Cristoforo will feature both the default forms and the alternate swash caps, some of which have not been digitized before. Neither Columbus revival handled multiple shapes for the same letter.
American Italic has never been revived in digital form, though it has inspired a kind of pastiche called http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/typodermic/charbroiled/ by Ray Larabie (Typodermic). This deliberately degraded font doesn't really compare to the original.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing deal: if a project receives enough pledges to meet (or exceed) its funding target, then credit cards are charged and the project is funded. If not enough money is pledged, the project gets no funding at all. There is no upper limit on funding, however.
Kickstarter is not an investment platform. Backers do not get a share of profits. Instead, they get pre-defined "rewards" from the project, depending on their level of funding.
A backer can fund as little or as much as they want. They can take any one reward (or no reward at all) at or below their funding level. If you want to donate $1000 and pick a $10 reward, or no reward, that's up to you.
After a project is funded (assuming it is), the creator can survey their backers to get things like their address (for shipping physical items), or what t-shirt size they want, etc. Backers also have the chance to communicate with the project creator, in case they have special requests, questions, or want to pass on some of the rewards associated with their reward level.
You mean besides getting the cool rewards?
My final stretch goals involve support for Greek, which is the last language we need for full pan-European support in Cristoforo! I was reluctant to go there because Greek lowercase is challenging. But I've done it before. Here are the remaining stretch goals!
$10,750: Greek caps
$12,000: Greek lowercase
$13,000 full-on polytonic Greek
Because funding exceeded $10,000, I will also add Cyrillic support for Russian and other Cyrillic languages to make Cristoforo useful to another several hundred million people! This would be about 120 characters for standard Cyrillic, and up to 50 more to get a fair bit of extended Cyrillic (extended = language coverage for another 60 million people.)
Because funding exceeded $7,500, I will be doing Central European (Polish, Czech, Romanian, Turkish, Baltic, etc.) support for Cristoforo. This is adding about 100 glyphs to the font, essentially more accented character support, including accented versions of alternates.
Half of all funding beyond the original $6,400 will go into a special bucket to pay my summer intern, which is important because US labor laws make it almost impossible to have an unpaid (or less than minimum wage) intern. Andrea Harrison, who I just selected a couple of weeks ago, totally rocks! This is a unique educational opportunity for her to do a combination of work with me on Cristoforo, work on the Kickstarter rewards, read books from my personal library on typography and typeface design, and even work on one or more of their own typefaces, in roughly equal measure. I don't expect the intern to actually contribute more to the project than I would have gotten done without him or her, but if I’m lucky, it can be about even. I really want to be able to pass on some of the things I have learned. Job posting here: http://www.thomasphinney.com/2012/04/font-production-type-design-intern-wanted/
See project update #4 for details: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tphinney/cristoforo-victorian-cthulhu-fonts-revived-again/posts/246720 Feel free to ask questions!
These classic typefaces were originally designed by Hermann Ihlenburg. Born in Berlin in 1843, he immigrated to the USA in 1866. Ihlenburg was among the most prolific of 19th-century type designers, creating over 70 typefaces in his career, in a dizzying array of styles, up to three years before his death in 1905. The Klingspor printing museum in Germany offers a http://www.klingspor-museum.de/KlingsporKuenstler/Schriftdesigner/Ihlenburg/Ihlenburg.pdf (PDF) for Ihlenburg.
Columbus and American Italic were originally very much designs of their time in the Victorian art nouveau style. But “trendy” is not the same as “lasting” so neither remained in production for long. Columbus was issued by MacKellar, Smith & Jordan right before it was subsumed into the American Type Founders conglomerate, in 1892. Columbus disappeared from ATF catalogs by 1906. American Italic was released by ATF in 1902, was still around in ATF’s 1912 catalog, and was gone by the time the 1923 catalog was issued. Why the italic was named and marketed so independently, I have no idea.
Columbus was actually one of four typefaces Ihlenburg designed for the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christoper Columbus’ voyage. The others were Columbian, Ferdinand and Isabella (the latter two named after the King and Queen of Spain who financed the voyage). Of the four, only Isabella is in widespread circulation today, having been converted to a digital outline font as early as 1988 by Agfa, and widely bundled since then. Ferdinand has a poorly-made free version. Columbian has no digital version I have come across.
The best source of general info about Hermann Ihlenburg is David Pankow's article “Recast in an American Image: The work of Hermann Ihlenburg, Type Designer” in http://pcba.info/publications/ampersand-archive/ (Journal of the Pacific Center for Book Arts), Vol. 13, Nos. 3&4, Fall/Winter 1993-94. The article was written to commemorate the deposition of http://library.rit.edu/cary/collections/hermann-ihlenburg-papers at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology, a library-inside-a-library which Pankow was long the curator of.
I had a fellowship to pay me to work at the Cary while doing my MS in printing at RIT in 1995–96, and I got to go through and admire the many Ihlenburg type drawings and sketches. Ihlenburg was capable of an amazing variety of styles, all executed with superb craftsmanship. Of course, a lot of late 19th century type design is art nouveau, and seems rather overwrought to modern sensibilities, but to me that's part of its charm—rather like H.P. Lovecraft’s writing.
First and foremost, I love type: both my career and my hobbies reflect that. This is just one way of expressing that. The first digital font I ever worked on, back around 1994-95, was my first stab at a version of Columbus. But I have learned quite a few things since then, mostly during my 11 years doing type at Adobe. I want to do something that really respects the original, so I threw out the version I started before and started over from scratch.
If you check out my bio on the side here, you'll see that I designed a large typeface (http://www.thomasphinney.com/2010/05/hypatia-sans-typeface-shipping/, with over 3000 glyphs per font) while I was at Adobe. For years I evangelized font production best practices for the then-new OpenType format to type designers and type foundries.
Reviving Columbus as Cristoforo excites me partly because it is such a quirky design, also because of the Call of Cthulhu connection, and because I've seen a lot of Ihlenburg's work and think it’s pretty cool. Wild, but cool. One of my very first attempts at producing a font was a version of Columbus. For Cristoforo I want to do it right, so though I started with that font to have placeholders, I am scrapping every one of those glyphs and doing them over.
I even have a family connection: my distant cousin Joseph W. Phinney was a vice president and founding partner in American Type Founders, the type foundry trust into which Columbus and its issuing foundry were absorbed in 1892. It was ATF that issued American Italic ten years later. There’s at least one typeface that is credited variously to J.W. Phinney or to Ihlenburg, depending on what source you look at.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Cthulhu_(role-playing_game) (first issued in 1981) is a role-playing game inspired by the horror stories of http://www.hplovecraft.com/ (1890-1937). Although there are variants in many settings, the "classic" version of the game is set in the 1920s... with the twist that hiding below the surface of things are nameless horrors and incomprehensible alien gods trying to break into our world.
In any case, the game logo is set in Columbus, using the alternate swash “C” and substituting the zero for the “o” in “of.” The game logo is still in Columbus, and from 1981-91, so were the titles on the covers of virtually all supplementary material for the game—dozens of books, some of which you can see in my promo video above.
So it’s my hope that H.P. Lovecraft aficionados, Call of Cthulhu fans, and designers producing related materials may be inclined towards use of Cristoforo, thanks to its strong associations for that crowd. Among other things, they won’t find that alternate cap “C” in the currently available digital versions of Columbus.
The trademark on the name Columbus for a typeface first lapsed for many years. Then, in 1992, Monotype issued a completely unrelated lovely http://www.fonts.com/findfonts/hiddengems/columbus.htm, also called Columbus, for the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the new world (just like Ihelnburg’s typeface was for the 400th anniversary). Monotype trademarked the name at that time. So, given a currently available typeface with that name trademarked, I had to call my version something else.
This typeface has a kind of narrow appeal to a few specific groups of people. In this case, I don’t think it makes sense to do hundreds of hours of work up front and hope to make enough money at regular retail sales. I am instead hoping that it can get funded up front from those few super-enthusiastic folks who think it is cool. The success of this project can serve as a signpost for other type designers wanting to create typefaces with less risk, while still retaining creative control and future rights.
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