The history of printing types

These lectures discuss the influence of manuscript and engraved letterforms on the form of printing types from the introduction of European movable type to the digital era, and the evolution of typographic letterforms.

They centre on the Latin alphabet in its most important forms: gothic and especially roman and italic, including sans-serif, but touch on non-Latin types. They present the types in the historical context of the manufacturing technology, economic and cultural factors, politics and historical artistic styles (renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, modernist, etc.).

They cover the work of the most important punchcutters and type designers from the earliest roman types (Nicholas Jenson, Francesco Griffo) to the late 20th century (Hermann Zapf, Adrian Frutiger).

We encourage students to take an active role by asking questions, comparing and discussing the forms of different types in class and bringing examples that interest them. The exact content therefore depends on the students.


John Lane


BS cum laude in de natuurkunde bij Yale University


– Freelance boek- en drukhistoricus gespecialiseerd in de geschiedenis van de drukletter, stempelsnijders en lettergieters
– Guggenheim Fellowship (2006)
– Docent University of Amsterdam Summer School (vanaf 2010)
– Docent University of Reading, England (1983-1985)


– ‘Arthur Nicholls and his Greek Type for the King’s Printing House’, The Library, 13 (1991)
– ‘Arent Corsz Hogenacker … his typefoundry and … types’, Quærendo, 25 (1995)
– ‘Nicolaes Briot and Menasseh ben Israel’s first Hebrew Types’, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana: treasures of Jewish booklore (1996)
– ‘From the Grecs du Roi to the Homer Greek …’, Greek Letters: from tablets to pixels (1996)
– Dutch Type-founders’ Specimens (1998)
– Early Type Specimens at the Plantin-Moretus Museum (2004)
– The Diaspora of Armenian Printing 1512-2012 (2012)
– ‘The Printing Office of Gerrit Harmansz van Riemsdijck, Israël Abrahamsz de Paull, …’, Quærendo, 43 (2013)