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#55 — Letter Portraits

Friends! It was emoji day not long ago 🙌 so let's all take a quick moment to admire the very first, b
Coffee Table Typography
#55 — Letter Portraits
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #55 • View online
Friends! It was emoji day not long ago 🙌 so let’s all take a quick moment to admire the very first, beautifully looking set of emojis, drawn by Shigeakata Kurita in 1999. I love how the fountain pen nib made it to this ridiculously small set of emojis — gotta get those priorities straight. Pens are important.
At this point, you might be sick of playing with this already, but it’s always worth sharing the amazing Font Playground tool, created by Wenting Zhang. The amount of high-quality variable fonts available is already astonishing. Experiment with a few different fonts and be amazed at all the possibilities you can create — and do keep coming back since it’s constantly being updated.
The smart folks at Oh No Type Co. recently published a series of really cool variable font animations on Twitter (for Cheee) — definitely take a look at them on FutureFonts.
Also recently, Stripe has released Stripe Press, a sort of book review collection page. It is dead simple, and drop-dead gorgeous. A great exercise in laying out a very simple layout combined with great typography (it uses Noe Text for both body copy and headings). Bookmark it for both books and inspiration.
And last but most definitely not least, Vox has made a highly entertaining and educational video about how Hollywood started to rely so heavily on Trajan for movie posters, a typeface we all love to hate and hate to love. A very informative video in just under 4 minutes that will for sure change the way you look at movie posters.
As I pack my bags for Toronto for the week, where I’ll be speaking about web fonts performance, let me know if you’re around and, of course, where the good coffee can be found.
Until next time,

Printing Wars — I Love Typography
Conrad Kyeser's Bellifortis
Conrad Kyeser's Bellifortis
John Boardley writes for I Love Typography about a different and unusual topic: printing the war since Medieval times, in books. After all, we’ve been writing about warfare pretty much since writing itself was invented; and ever since illustrations were possible on physical books or manuscripts, we’ve been doing that too. 
One of the best known from antiquity is Flavius Vegetius’ late fourth-century, De re militari or ‘Military Science’, repopularized throughout the latter Middle Ages and first printed in c. 1473–74 by Nicolaus Ketelaer and Gerardus de Leempt in Utrecht in the central Netherlands. 
In fact, there seems to be a famous warfare manual, illustrated in the early 15th century: Conrad Kyeser’s Bellifortis (Strong in War), popular for its futuristic and detailed illustrations of weapons and other war-like devices. The book wasn’t printed until the 20th century, however.
Notice the highly uneven type
Notice the highly uneven type
Kyeser traveled widely, spent time at the Paduan court, later joining a crusade against the Turks that ended in disaster at the battle of Nicopolis in 1396 – a defeat that undoubtedly motivated him to write Bellifortis, in which he describes military tactics, troop discipline, the use of magic and astrology, instruments of torture, and numerous weapons and war machines that predate those of Leonardo da Vinci by the best part of a century.
The very first book printed on warfare seems to be De re militari, in 1472, which contains more than a hundred woodcuts illustrating everything from sometimes bizarre Heath Robinson-esque contraptions to modifications of earlier medieval technologies and dozens of siege machines and other weapons of war.
Perhaps my favourite illustration is this one, a woodcut from 1405 depicting Alexander the Great holding what would then be their own idea of a rocket, in his hands.
The article is short, but contains a few more prints of these woodcuts and some other screenshots of early warfare-related books, so make sure not to miss it.
Interrobang - 99% Invisible
What do we lose when a language dies?
My Dear Sister — Leslie Nichols Artwork
Sometimes you just stumble across work so beautiful that you have to share it with the world, even if that work has happened 3 years ago. Leslie does portraits — women’s portraits, to be precise, but she does so not with a paintbrush, but with letterpress.
In Leslie’s work, the history of the letterpress, of women’s words, and of portraiture combine to connect the visual, the literary, and the political. Her current practice started when she was given a typewriter ten years ago. With this, she created images of women through words. She began with simple phrases and original poems, then branched out to more complex, historical texts and imagery.
Her series of textual portraits are nothing short of astonishing. Using wood and/or metal type, she carefully places character sets to, piece per piece, compose a beautiful portrait. “They’re women made with women’s words”, Leslie says.
Typewriter portraits
Typewriter portraits
You can, and should, look at more of her work in her personal website, and on her Flickr page too.
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
Dave Bailey is the father of Prospectus, a beautifully looking new typeface from Lost Type that also features a striking type specimen for us to drool at ❤️ Lost Type describes it as:
A recognizably crisp, bold, and contemporary choice for all of your editorial, fashionable, intellectual, and satirical typesetting needs. 
Not only that, but it comes in a lot of weights — a lot. If you count the optical sizes, you can have this in 48 different styles to mix and match. I’m personally in love with this typeface and everything about it — even thinking about (yet another) mid-cycle redesign of my portfolio just so I can buy it. Body copy looks extremely elegant:
You can get it directly from LostType’s website. If you’re not on the market for a new typeface, still pay a visit to its beautiful type specimen page.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
Why Starbucks Canada's investment in mental health therapy matters
Did you enjoy this issue?
Coffee Table Typography

A love for words, letters, language—and coffee.
A digest of curated resources, articles and knowledge sharing about the beauty of typography; in design, on the web, or books.
You will read these over your morning cup of coffee, while the aromas of freshly ground beans are still in the air, quickly realising that words are beautiful and that you might need that second cup after all.

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With 💙 from Montreal, Canada