Schlagwort-Archive: Typografie

Welcome to @isoletters

On 1 January 2018, I will start sharing pictures of letters on a new Twitter account: @isoletters. I have been taking letter pics for years and occasionally shared them, for example on my @‌isoglosse Twitter account (which I will continue to use for anything except letter pics) or on Flickr. Browsing through my collection, I decided that I would like to share pictures from it more regularly. A collection is not worth much when nobody looks at the items and maybe gets inspired by them. For that reason, I will try to post one picture on each day of 2018. You are welcome to follow. I also hope that you will comment, correct me if I am wrong and share your own pictures. What kind of pictures can you expect?
All pictures I will share on @isoletters are of some typographic interest (or at least I think so). Given my own background, I may also slip in some pictures that are interesting from a linguistic perspective. When trying to classify the pictures I collected, one may end up with roughly the following categories:

  • Excellence and extravagance

    When letterers or typographers do great work, this deserves sharing and praising. We won’t come to a universal agreement on what exactly is excellent. But I hope that you will agree that quite a few of the letters I will show are pleasant to look at. Many of the makers of these letters are anonymous – or they may even be dead. That shouldn’t keep us from appreciating their work, but it is especially with regard to this category that I would like to encourage all readers to let me know if you know who created any lettering, type or composition featured on my account. I wouldn’t mind getting in touch with the creators of some of the work I will show or learning more about them. Luckily, enjoying the letters doesn’t require knowing everything about their making. That’s what this category is for.

  • Local colour

    Letters shape our world – and just like many other things, they look different in each place. Sure, Arial and Times New Roman are almost everywhere (the way McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are). But most places have retained a certain couleur locale that is enjoyable to discover and observe. That is why a German Bäckerei usually does not look the same as a French boulangerie. And a Dutch bakkerij will look different still (if you can find one). This category is meant to celebrate these differences. A large share of the pictures I have collected fall within this category. There may be a pinch of excellence in some of the examples; some others may seem a bit bland at first sight. What the examples in this category have in common is that I have perceived them as typical elements of the local visual culture. This category also includes pictures of local variants of letters or diacritics. This is a phenomenon that has received some more attention lately and I am happy to make my contribution.

  • Abomination and abhorrence

    In this category, I collect lettering and type that had my eyebrows raised. Again, your mileage may vary (and if it does, feel free to let me know). In any case, this is supposed to be the category with the fewest items. I don’t see much of a point in highlighting subpar work. There is so much of it. You just have to take a stroll through any random town to get a year’s fill. But even bad stuff can be worth looking at – for instance, when it is funny (the fact that Comic Sans was used won’t suffice) or instructive (consider this example I posted on my @isoglosse account). I won’t specifically label these cautionary examples, but you should know that not everything I feature is worth imitating.

If you would like to know more about the pictures that will be posted, have a look at the account itself. On the first day of the year, I will post one picture per hour under the hashtag #Lttr18 to give you an idea of the road that lies ahead. But to be honest, I don’t know yet which picture will be posted on 31 December 2018, so don’t hold it against me if I don’t exactly follow the path I have set out.

Finally, some technical remarks: People have inquired why I have decided on Twitter for sharing the pictures. Twitter seemed like a good compromise in terms of image quality and reach. It is used widely in the type community and can even be accessed by people who don’t have an account themselves. It is true that file size limits apply and that pictures are compressed upon upload. The result is acceptable for the intended purposes, though. I hope to upload all pictures to Flickr as well (which is better in terms of quality and tagging, but used by fewer people), but that may take a while. The pictures on @isoletters are licensed under CC BY-NC-ND. If you need higher-resolution files or would like to use the pictures for anything that goes beyond the license, please get in touch with me.

Old type in new fonts? First impressions of Fontstore

A few days ago, Font­store launched – a new player in the market for subscription-based font services. To be accurate, Font­store is both a foundry and a font service provider: You can buy fonts there like at any other foundry, but you can also become a subscriber. For $ 15 per month (or $ 150 per year), you get access to their entire library of desktop fonts. Having used Typekit for a few years and having reviewed the Monotype Library Subscription (MLS) last year, I was curious to see what Font­store has to offer. The very first impression was not too favourable: Their website is slow and cluttered up with animations and effects, making it difficult to get an overview of their collection (others loved their site or also hated it). Font­store does not excel at transparency either: The name of its founder, Satya Rajpurohit, is nowhere to be found on the website (though he has promised to remedy this). In order to access the Font­store Library (the contents of which will be discussed below) through the subscription service, I subscribed and payed by credit card; both went without problems. Installing the app syncing the fonts on Windows was not exactly a seamless experience, though: I got a number of warnings that are typically not shown upon installing software, but just going ahead did not crash the system. Once installed, you go to the website, select the fonts you want to use, and they are available just seconds later.

Slim pickings for type designers

As I noted in my review of the MLS, low-priced font subscription services do not only raise technical questions, but ethical ones as well. Creating fonts is a time-consuming task requiring specialised skills that are gained through extensive training and practice. Few type designers create fonts just for the fun of it. Most do so to make (part of) a living – but you need a lot of subscribers before you are able to provide decent payment to all type designers. As a customer, you have to decide: Is subscribing to such a service tantamount to supporting exploitative working conditions and fuelling the downward price spiral in the font market? In the case of Font­store, the decision may be a little easier: All typefaces were commissioned for that service with (I presume) designers knowing what they signed for. In a post on TypeDrawers, Satya Rajpurohit, the founder of Font­store, explained that Font­store offers different payment models to type designers, neither of them based on royalties. In any case, the business risk mainly rests with Font­store, rather than with individual designers. That seems friendlier than royalty-based models, but $ 15 per month is still not much to go round, so time will tell if the system is sustainable. Also, even the best offer in a given situation can be a bad one: Font­store carries fonts from quite a few young type designers, some of them releasing their first retail fonts. Many senior designers may have been reluctant to accept Font­store’s payment models and have their fonts offered at a bargain price.

The library from a bird’s-eye view

Let’s have a broad look at the collection, offering 75 typefaces that 31 type designers have contributed to. Some of the most prolific contributors have links with France: Jérémie Hornus and Alisa Nowak have worked on 10 typefaces each (and collaborated on most of them). Both were part of FontYou and work together at Black[Foundry], which was co-founded by Hornus (with Grégori Vincens). Like several other contributors, Hornus and Nowak have designed typefaces released by the Indian Type Foundry (ITF), headed by Font­store founder Satya Rajpurohit. Gaëtan Baehr, Théo Guillard and Jean-Baptiste Morizot (5 typefaces each in the Font­store collection) have worked for ITF and work for Black[Foundry]. Frode Helland (co-founder of Norwegian Monokrom) has also contributed 5 typefaces, but, to my knowledge, has not released at any of the aforementioned foundries. Aarya Purohit (working at ITF), Diana Ovezea (who has released a typeface family at ITF) and Deni Anggara have contributed to 4 typefaces each. Again, Font­store could do better in terms of transparency: 7 typefaces are credited to ITF with no individual designers mentioned. Based on their own (less than ideal) classification, we can say that Font­store offers 34 sans-serif typefaces, 21 serif typefaces (5 of which are classified as slab serifs) and 20 display typefaces (5 of which are classified as script typefaces). Based on my own assessment, I would say that typefaces that can be used for body text in the broadest sense of the term make up about 40 % of the library. Of these typefaces, about two thirds are sans-serif. An exhaustive overview of the initial collection can be downloaded here. Some of my personal favourites are shown below.

Fontstore: Some favourite typefaces

The library in more detail

On the one hand, Font­store’s library is tiny (200 fonts, belonging to 75 typefaces) – compared to Monotype’s MLS (more than 9,000 fonts, belonging to ± 2,200 typefaces) or Adobe’s Typekit (± 900 typefaces for desktop sync). On the other hand, I know of no other foundry that has released 75 digital typefaces on the same day. If it is not a unique accomplishment, it certainly is exceptional. Comparing the three libraries, one more important difference is the size of the ‘back catalogue’ (i.e., typefaces that were created long before the subscription service launched): To be honest, the MLS is nothing but one large back catalogue for the better part. Typekit has a higher share of new releases, but also includes some classics from Adobe’s library. On Font­store, everything is new. Being able to draw on a sizeable back catalogue, as Monotype and Adobe can, has advantages: It provides a strong foundation of usable basics, so one can – or, well, could – focus on adding innovative type to the collection.

Looking at Font­store’s collection, I get the impression that they have struggled with the absence of such a back catalogue: They know that most customers will subscribe to no more than one font service. In whatever service they use, customers will expect to find more or less everything they need. For Font­store, this means that they, too, have to offer typefaces in certain popular categories – say, a type system with sans, serif and monospaced variants, a spurless sans, a neurial neutral grotesque, a Didone, some all-caps stuff or some script typefaces. In complying with these wishes, Font­store’s designers are forced to reinvent the wheel, even if the only fault in existing wheels is that they are not part of the Font­store library. In most cases, this yields technically solid typefaces that are nothing to write home about. But in some cases, the result seems too close for comfort to earlier designs: Demo, for instance, is so heavily reminiscent of Sansa that it suggests a serious lack of fresh ideas, to say the least.¹ Similarly, the (bold) italics of Gambetta elicit a too strong sense of Minion déjà vu. In any case, a bunch of type designers were asked to work on things that have already been worked on elsewhere for, as far as I can see, the sole purpose of creating a ‘complete’ library that checks all the boxes. That may be inevitable from a business perspective, but it feels like a waste of resources to me.

On the upside, Font­store is an investment in another bunch of type designers working on nice things. As my selection of favourites above may suggest, I am most interested in text typefaces or toned-down display typefaces. There can never be enough of either, but the selection at Font­store is nothing to sneeze at. It is hard to say if the nine typefaces shown above would not have been released if Font­store had not come into existence. I think most would have found their place in the font market, but we may have had to wait a little longer to get to use them. These – and some other original or even innovative typefaces that I have not singled out for various reasons – are what sets Font­store apart from its competitors. This is what I would like to see more of. When you don’t have DIN or Sabon in your library, don’t follow in their footsteps, but try to design a DIN or Sabon of the 21st century. Satya Rajpurohit should be praised for encouraging and paying more than thirty type designers to give it a shot, and it is impressive that he was able to do so without a large corporation like Monotype or Adobe behind him.

Will I keep my Font­store subscription after the first month? I am not sure yet – but the next addition to the library may give me a nudge in the right direction. Release date: tomorrow. And even if I cancel now, I will be back in 2025. Font­store is “expecting to add about 3,000 new font families” by then. If they are as ambitious when it comes to quality as they are in terms of quantity, that will be a nice library.


1   In a previous version of this paragraph, I used the term ‘outright plagiarism’, stating that this does not seem to be the reason for the similarities between the typefaces I mentioned. It has been pointed out to me that this paragraph can be misread in a way that suggests that I do consider these typefaces to be cases of plagiarism. I do not – and I have therefore reworded this paragraph, avoiding the term ‘plagiarism’ and only mentioning what I see as the source of the similarities: a lack of creative ideas. 

Die englische ›type foundry‹ und ihre deutschen Äquivalente


How do you translate type foundry into German? Gießerei (literally castery), the traditional term from the era of metal typesetting, is not used for digital foundries and seems unlikely to be revived. This text is supposed to ignite a debate about possible alternative terms. These include Schriftanbieter (literally type offerer), Schriftenhaus (type house), Schriftherausgeber (type editor), Schrifthersteller (type producer), Schriftlabel (type label), Schriftverlag (type publisher) and the English loan word Foundry.


Wie übersetzt man type foundry ins Deutsche? Bei einer Diskussion auf Twitter, die sich um die Suche nach einem Begriff für die deutsche Wikipedia drehte, wurde klar, dass es hierzu keinen Konsens gibt. Grund genug, sich das englische Original und einige mögliche Übersetzungen genauer anzusehen.

Den englischen Begriff definiert Wiktionary als »a company that designs and/or distributes typefaces« (»ein Unternehmen, das Schriftarten gestaltet und/oder verbreitet«). Erster Bestandteil ist type – ein Wort mit griechischen Wurzeln (altgr. τύπος ›Schlag, Stoß; Abdruck; Gepräge, Relief; Abbild, Vorbild, Vorlage; Form, Gestalt‹ zu τύπτειν ›schlagen, stoßen‹), das, übers Lateinische und Französische, Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts ins Englische kam. Ausgehend von älteren Bedeutungen wie ›(Vor-)Bild, Vorlage; charakteristische Form‹ wird es seit dem frühen 18. Jahrhundert für Drucklettern verwendet. In dieser Bedeutung wird es im Deutschen mühelos mit ›Schrift‹ wiedergegeben, so auch in einigen Wörtern, die im Weiteren besprochen werden. Der zweite Teil der Begriffs ist es, der bei der Übertragung ins Deutsche Schwierigkeiten bereitet. Drucklettern entstanden bzw. entstehen in einer foundry. Auch dieses Wort, das im Englischen seit dem 16. Jahrhundert belegt ist, stammt aus dem Französischen: Das Verb fondre, das wiederum auf das lateinische fundere zurückgeht, bedeutet unter anderem ›schmelzen‹. Eine fonderie ist eine Werkstatt, in der Metall geschmolzen und in neue Formen gebracht wird, zum Beispiel Buchstabenformen (deren Kombination zum Zeichensatz einer Schriftart als font bezeichnet wird). Im Deutschen bezeichnet man solche Werkstätten seit dem frühen 17. Jahrhundert als Gießerei bzw., wenn sie sich mit der Herstellung von Buchstaben beschäftigen, als Schriftgießerei.

Der deutsche Begriff Gießerei ist, anders als sein englisches Gegenstück, in der Zeit verblieben, in der Buchstaben aus Metall waren. Für Unternehmen, die sich mit digitaler Schrift beschäftigen, hat er sich nicht eingebürgert. Aber was soll man dann verwenden? Dass sich die Frage überhaupt stellt, dürfte auch daran liegen, dass ein Großteil des Geschäfts in dieser Branche auf Englisch abgewickelt wird. Auch auf Deutsch wird über Schrift geschrieben, aber häufiger noch auf Englisch. Die Zahl der type foundries, die eine deutschsprachige Website unterhalten, ist niedrig. In der Diskussion und bei der Recherche tauchten dann doch sechs Wörter auf, die die nähere Betrachtung lohnen: Schriftanbieter; Schrifthaus; Schriftherausgeber; Schrifthersteller; Schriftlabel; Schriftverlag (bei allen kann der erste Teil auch ›Schriften-‹ lauten, aber die Verteilung der Formen ist nicht bei allen Begriffen dieselbe).


Identical zero and oh glyphs

Zero vs. oh: Strategies of glyph differentiation

When characters look similar to one another, misreadings or even misunderstandings may result. In such cases, type designers often try to avoid glyphs looking completely identical. One example of a similarity that can get too close for comfort is between the digit ‘0’ (henceforth: zero) and the letter ‘O’ (oh). Differentiation strategies between lining zero and upper-case oh have been shown to be fairly uniform across typefaces: Zero is almost always narrower and often less tall than Oh. These and other strategies have been discussed in a 2013 article by Charles Bigelow. He focuses on lining figures in typewriter typefaces and only briefly mentions contemporary approaches to non-lining zero and lower-case oh – a pair that is also prone to confusion and seems to be treated with less uniformity in recent typefaces. Inspired by a tweet by Shiva Nallaperumal, I have compiled typical and not so typical ways of distinguishing non-lining zero from lower-case oh. My observations are mainly based on old-style roman text typefaces in the Typekit library; this sample is not representative of anything but the Typekit library itself, which, however, contains a bunch of well-known, widely used typefaces.


Charis SIL, used in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary

Fonts for phonetic transcriptions: An overview

In 2014, I started compiling a list of fonts for typesetting phonetic transcriptions using symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It is probably the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of such fonts, providing short, yet detailed reviews of the typefaces and the quality of their symbols – but it has two disadvantages: First, the reviews are written in German, which most people do not read. Second, the list – featuring more than 40 typefaces – has grown quite long and maybe even a bit confusing. If you are looking for a decent sans-serif typeface that includes phonetic symbols in its bold style, the long list will not be much help. That is why created a table of all fonts for phonetic transcriptions I am aware of (thanks to Friedrich Althausen, the designer of the Vollkorn typeface, for the suggestion!).
Charis SIL, used in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by John C. Wells
For each font family, I have indicated whether the roman and italic styles in the regular and bold weights contain phonetic symbols (R: Regular Roman; I: Regular Italic; B: Bold Roman; BI: Bold Italic).¹ Whenever a typeface family includes more than these four styles, this is noted in the ‘More styles’ column (but you’ll have to look up the details for yourself). This is also true when a typeface has more than one bold weight (e.g., Semibold and Bold) or more than one italic style (e.g., ‘true’ italics and oblique). If you want to read the reviews of the typefaces, click on their names (warning: 🇩🇪 content ahead).

In each category,  means that a (more or less) complete set of phonetic symbols is available. Even if a font is marked that way, some symbols may be missing. (✓) means that a style or weight is present in the typeface, but that it does not contain phonetic symbols.  means that a style or weight is missing entirely from the typeface in question.² The last column contains a rating: This is not about whether a typeface is nice in general, but only refers to the design and functioning of the phonetic symbols. Still, it is certainly somewhat subjective, so feel free to comment if your evaluation differs substantially from mine. Also, please let me know if you know of any other typefaces with phonetic symbols.


Phonetic repair service: Fixing ATypI’s IPA

The 2015 edition of the annual conference of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) took place in São Paulo, Brazil. Its visual identity was based on the phonetic transcription of the local pronunciation of the name of the host city: /ˌsɐ̃w ˈpawlu/. From this transcription, one symbol was isolated and used as a sort of logo: /ɐ̃/ – both an interesting glyph design-wise and the symbol of a characteristic sound of Portuguese (a nasalised centralised vowel). I think it was a great choice for a type conference in Brazil. What’s more, I liked the typefaces they used in their visual identity, among others Voces (by Ana Paula Megda & Pablo Ugerman) and Brasilica (by Rafael Dietzsch). An extension of the latter, including phonetic symbols, has been announced for 2016 (and I’m quite curious about that).

Logo of the 2015 ATypI conference, using a phonetic symbol

Despite the cleverness of the concept, not all of its implementations were equally successful. I saw one on YouTube that I was a bit disappointed about: The video recordings of all conference talks – kudos for making them available – had thumbnails showing the names of the speakers and phonetic transcriptions of their names. As I already pointed out on Twitter, many of the transcriptions were inaccurate. In some cases, it was not even clear to me if the transcription was supposed to represent an Anglicised pronunciation or the way speakers would pronounce their names in their native languages. Admittedly, making phonetic transcriptions is not that easy – whether you use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), as they wisely did, or any other system. I don’t know who created the transcriptions in the thumbnails and I don’t know why they ended up being inaccurate: Maybe the transcriber was lacking information or it was a rush job or correct transcriptions were garbled in the design process.

What I want to do here is to provide correct transcriptions of the native pronunciation of the speakers’ names (or at least, I will try to avoid the most egregious mistakes that were made in the original transcriptions). As I said before, making phonetic transcriptions can be difficult: Language varies a lot – across place, time, situation etc. Not everyone agrees on how to describe all this variation; not everyone agrees on how to transcribe it. Trying to pin down the symbol that exactly represents one sound has led to heated debates among linguists more than just once. For that reason, I’d like to invite you to let me know if you disagree with the way I transcribed any of the names.

For all those who do not read IPA transcriptions fluently, there are some audio recordings: Whenever you see a 🔊 symbol next to a name, you can click on it to listen to the speaker’s own pronunciation of their name. Most speakers say something along the lines of ‘Hi, my name is […], I come from […] and my mother tongue is […]’ – all that in (one of) their native language(s). I hope to add more recordings in the future, but this may take some time. Similarly, some transcriptions require a bit of research, so the list will not be complete from the outset, but be filled over time. Anyway, here is the list:


Monotype Library Subscription: A user’s experience

MLS. That’s not the name of a tropical disease or some obscure government agency. The abbreviation stands for Monotype Library Subscription. Launched a few days ago, MLS is a subscription-based service that gives members access to “more than 9,000 fonts (2,200 font families)” (Monotype says). The price tag is at no more than €/$ 14.99 per month (or €/$ 119.99 per year). The fonts can be used in desktop applications, but – unlike the fonts on Typekit, a competing service by Adobe – not on websites.

For graphic designers, this sounds like a good deal. €/$ 14.99 per month for high-quality typefaces is next to nothing. A regular licence of most typeface families available through the MLS would cost twenty times as much or more. The choice seems ample: The library, Monotype says, features “reliable workhorses” (such as Avenir Next), “unique choices” (such as Ginkgo, Linotype’s take on the Dolly genre) and “attention grabbing” typefaces (such as Balega). Let’s be clear, though, that most of what you get is hardly at the cutting edge of contemporary type design. Innovation happens elsewhere. This may be a deal breaker for all those who are trying to produce fresh or even innovative work. In that industry, Rockwell (released in 1934 and based on earlier models) probably won’t count as ‘attention grabbing’ any more and Oranda (from the mid-80s) does not qualify as ‘unique’. That may be less of a concern for those interested in subdued text typography: MLS includes a number of modern classics that have aged with grace and can still be used nicely (such as Caecilia), along with some good recent releases (such as Quire Sans). It helps, by the way, if you only need to use Latin-based alphabets: For those, the language support of most typefaces is good. For Greek, Cyrillic or Arabic, not so much.


Bram de Does (1934–2015): “Ik sta schaakmat”

On 28 December 2015, Dutch type designer and typographer Bram de Does (* 1934) passed away. Jan Middendorp (@DutchTypeJam) honoured him by posting a picture in which we see text handwritten by De Does. The text is a reply to a comment that Peter Matthias Noordzij made on the letter ‘k’ of a custom headline version of De Does’ Lexicon typeface. The reply is in Dutch, so I tried to translate it to English:

“I can understand that you find it [the letter ‘k’] ugly. I do not manage to find it really beautiful either, but still do not know what I could improve in it. I do not want to make the bottom serif on the right any wider; ‘k’ already leaves such a large gap on the right-hand side. I do not want to make the upper right-hand part extend more to the right because this would cause these white spaces [cf. picture] to differ so much. I do not want to lower the junction in the middle because the space labelled ‘b’ would become even smaller then. Do you have any ideas? I am checkmated.”

In the third, fourth and fifth sentence, De Does uses object-initial constructions in Dutch, which are difficult to render in English. A construction that uses left dislocation probably comes closest in English: ‘The junction, I don’t want to lower it’ – but that does not sound particularly natural to me.

Under the type volcano: A review of the 2015 Typodarium

On each day of 2015, I tweeted a micro-review of the typefaces in the Typodarium, a tear-off calendar (published by Hermann Schmidt, Mainz – a city with some typographic heritage, as you may know). If you would like to (re)read these 365 tweets, have a look here. In this review, I will focus on the editorial concept of the calendar, rather than on the individual typefaces. But isn’t it pointless to review a calendar for a year that just ended? Maybe it isn’t. There have been rumours that the 2016 Typodarium may be the final one (but the editors of the Typodarium have made a post to their Facebook page saying: “see you next year for the issue #9”). Whether or not this specific product is (almost) dead, the general idea of a daily type calendar should not die. A physical calendar for your physical desktop still seems like an enjoyable way of getting to know new and interesting typefaces. In this review, I will try to point out some aspects that may have rendered the 2015 Typodarium – however much I enjoyed tweeting about its typefaces – less worthwhile than it could have been. If you ever consider publishing a daily type calendar, take a good look at each edition of the Typodarium, read this review – and make it better.

The first Typodarium edition was published in 2008 (for 2009). All editions were edited by Lars Harmsen and Raban Ruddigkeit. In recent years, a jury helped selecting the typefaces. The jury for the 2015 edition were Philippe Apeloig, Alexander Branczyk, Martina Flor, Ivo Gabrowitsch and Mario Lombardo. Three of the five jury members have published retail typefaces themselves (Ivo Gabrowitsch has not, as far as I know, and Mario Lombardo has designed exclusive custom typefaces). It is sad to see only one female type designer among four men, but not surprising, given a lack of gender diversity in professional type design. In spite of that, this is a competent jury, so I was surprised to find that two of the calendar’s main weaknesses were caused by what I think is an unduly lenient editorial policy.


Straatnaamborden in Groningen: aanvullende inzichten

Het is bijna vier maanden geleden dat ik twee stukjes over de vormgeving van straatnaamborden in de stad Groningen heb geplaatst. Al kort na de publicatie van die twee artikelen heeft Rob Essers contact met me gezocht. Rob is de samensteller van een (hele fijne want complete en actuele) stratenlijst van de gemeente Nijmegen. Dat de aandacht van de samensteller van zo’n stratenlijst op een gegeven moment ook op straatnaamborden valt, zal niemand verbazen. En wat blijkt? In Nijmegen hangen er straatnaamborden die vrijwel identiek zijn aan een type Groningse straatnaamborden dat ik in een van mijn artikelen heb beschreven: het gaat om de donkerblauwe straatnaamborden die in de binnenstad nogal frequent zijn en waarvan ik denk dat dit type borden het tweede oudste is.
Verlengde Visscherstraat
Op – een “geschiedeniswebsite over Nijmegen” (de Romeinen noemden Nijmegen ‘Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum’) – zijn een aantal rijksmonumenten in die stad beschreven waaronder een pand in een straat met de naam ‘Ganzenheuvel’ (kijk even hier). De foto’s laten borden zien waarop, net als op de borden in Groningen, een smalle classicistische letter staat. In Nijmegen zijn de borden ingemetseld, maar in allebei de steden gaat het blijkbaar om borden van geëmailleerde lava. “Het materiaal is opvallend licht van gewicht”, schrijft me Rob Essers die één van die borden eens in handen heeft gehad. Op Noviomagus schrijft hij verder dat er “nog maar heel weinig borden van dit type in Nijmegen bewaard” zijn gebleven – terwijl er in Groningen best veel van hangen (zie mijn Flickr-collectie).

Naast het feit dat Groningen niet de enige stad is waar dit soort borden hangen, heeft Essers nog twee details weten te ontdekken: ten eerste heeft hij een bord van dit type gevonden waarop een straatnaam staat die sinds september 1886 niet meer in gebruik is. Hierdoor weten we dus dat dit soort bordjes vóór die tijd al in Nijmegen hing (en wellicht ook in Groningen). In mijn eigen artikel was ik, bij gebrek aan oude(re) foto’s, van omstreeks 1900 uitgegaan. Heel interessant dat de weinige Nijmeegse bordjes die er nog zijn van dit type, en wie weet ook (sommige van) de Groningse bordjes al zo oud zijn!

Ten tweede heeft Essers aanwijzingen waar de Groningse straatnaamborden vandaan kwamen. Die aanwijzingen komen uit de correspondentie van de Middelburgse stadsarchitect met het bedrijf dat in 1885 straatnaamborden voor deze stad zou leveren. Uit deze correspondentie wordt geciteerd in een artikel dat al tien jaar geleden in De Wete is gepubliceerd, het tijdschrift van de Heemkundige Kring Walcheren: een zekere François Gillet uit Parijs schrijft aan de stadsarchitect dat zijn bedrijf reeds straatnaamborden naar Nijmegen heeft geleverd. Het lijkt me aannemelijk dat alle Nijmeegse straatnaamborden uit die tijd door hetzelfde bedrijf zijn geleverd (en niet door een concurrent van Gillet). Aangezien de Nijmeegse bordjes identiek zijn aan de Groningse bordjes van het type dat ik boven heb laten zien, zouden we ervan uit kunnen gaan dat de borden in allebei de steden door Gillet zijn gemaakt. Van de Middelburgse bordjes uit die tijd staan er helaas geen plaatjes in het Wete-artikel (of er zijn gewoon geen borden meer uit die periode). Wel zijn er een aantal foto’s van andere Middelburgse borden die sterk lijken op het tweede type borden dat ik hier heb beschreven. Het gaat om de afgeronde borden met de geometrische schreefloze letter die ook zo’n beetje overal in het centrum van Groningen te zien zijn.
E. Thom à Thuessinklaan
Met het oog op het letterontwerp kunnen we uitsluiten dat de correspondentie uit 1885 over dit type borden ging. Wel zou het mogelijk zijn dat Middelburg het huis Gillet trouw is gebleven, dus dat ook latere borden uit Parijs kwamen. Als we wisten of dit zo was (of hoe de 19e-eeuwse bordjes in Middelburg eruitzagen), zou dat aanvullend licht op de oorsprong van de Groningse borden werpen. Uit de correspondentie van Gillet met de stadsarchitect blijkt in ieder geval dat het bedrijf niet alleen maar Nijmegen en Middelburg van bordjes heeft voorzien. Borden uit Parijs zouden in Parijs zelf, maar ook elders in Frankrijk (Lyon, Versailles, Le Havre, Cherbourg, Le Mans, Calais, Boulogne, Lille, Roubaix, Duinkerken) en in enkele steden in het Nederlandse taalgebied (Gent, Arnhem, ’s-Hertogenbosch) hangen of hebben gehangen. Misschien zijn er in een van deze steden zowel plaatjes van borden uit de 19e eeuw als gegevens over hun herkomst. Nog steeds geldt: als je meer weet, hoor ik het graag.