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Ink traps ahead of times

Simoncini Garamond showcase

Last friday I attended the opening of the exhibition “Metodo Simoncini. Ricerca di un’estetica dell’insieme” at the Museum of Industrial Heritage in Bologna. The exhibition lives in the context of “Griffo, the great gala of letters” curated by Elisa Rebellato and Antonio Cavedoni under the art direction of Dina&Solomon.

It is a journey through the successful business model and creations of Francesco Simoncini, a key figure for the fifties-seventies typography in Italy, his heritage survived indeed long after him. We are surrounded with Simoncini: his most popular typeface, Simoncini Garamond, is among the most ubiquitous type in Italian printed books.

Simoncini Garamond original drawings

Simoncini Garamond original drawings

Simoncini was even ahead of Matthew Carter’s Bell Centennial ink traps with his Delia typeface, dated 1963. A stencil typeface, designed to be composed at very small points (from 4.75 to 6), where baseline is stressed, to the point that the bottom of rounded shapes are straightened, and where gaps were designed to accommodate ink spread, due to paper absorption.

Evidence of large counters and stencils, precursor of ink traps, in Delia typeface

Evidence of large counters and stencils, precursor of ink traps, in Delia typeface

Delia was adopted by the Italian Yellow Pages from 1969 to 1979. The widely adopted Galfra typeface, designed in 1977 by Ladislas Mandel, actually stay true to its predecessor, with basically the same proportions and shapes of Delia glyphs.

Side cool notes: the typeface was originally called Pubblicità (Advertising), before the name Delia was permanently chosen.

The curators did a lot of diggings, because most of the original documents and correspondence vanished, nonetheless they succeeded, and most of the original drawings and documents have now been brought to life.

Original documents from Simoncini Spa

Original documents from Simoncini Spa

To sum up Francesco Simoncini’s work as a type designer with just one adjective, the best description might be ‘mindful’.

A. Cavedoni. Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue

Simoncini actually applied for a patent covering his production procedure, in Italy, Germany, France and USA. Basically he found a way to achieve accurate prints, true to the original design of the glyphs, despite distortions caused by technical limitations of phototypesetting, Linotype matrices manufacturing, and ink spread. I leave the discovery to you, but you can spot some hints in the picture below.

Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue, published by Ronzani Editore

Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue, published by Ronzani Editore

Even if you solved the puzzle of the Simoncini’s method, visiting the exhibition is well worth it. If you live close enough to Bologna, or are planning a trip, you should definitely schedule a visit to the exhibition in your agenda. Others discoveries awaits for you in the drawers of the Museum of Industrial Heritage, for example… did you know that the typeface Simoncini Garamond is not a Garamond?

The exhibition will be open from September, 23 to November, 12 2017

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