There is an alternate story for the origin of Monotype’s Times New Roman. Like many old stories it has proven difficult to verify. The dubious path winds circuitously through the shipyards of an American yacht designer in Marblehead, MA, named William Starling Burgess. He was a multitalented designer of experimental aircraft, racing yachts, and the Dymaxion automobile.
This is an expanded version of what I recently posted in my newsletter.
This is what a typical newspaper or book typeface looked like in the 1800s. Imagine what a high-speed press and cheap paper would do to this "delicate" design. The new design was supervised by Morison, who was at that time a well-known typographic consultant to The Times (and for the Monotype Typesetter Company), and drawn by Victor Lardent, an artist from the advertising department of the newspaper. This seems likely, since Stanley Morison was not a designer, but as a critic and astute editor, he could certainly indicate what portions of the letterforms required change. The redesign lasted two years and the first newspaper edition with the new types appeared in December of 1932. The general design of the new new font was better suited to the high-speed rotary presses [see above] used for newspaper production. My impressions of Times Roman were that, as we see it presented now, it wasn’t suitable for newspaper production. When I was introduced to it early in my career as a designer, it was very popular as a book and magazine typeface. You could hardly pick up a book in the second half of the 20th Century that wasn’t set in Times. Actually, Times Roman was offered for commercial sale starting in 1932 but few American newspapers used it. What had become the standard then were the new types from the enormously popular Legibility Series manufactured by Linotype.
The first of this series was called Ionic and looked very much like Century Schoolbook. Others followed, such as Excelsior and Textype and even Corona (!). Many newspapers are still using these fonts or variations of them. Why did it take so long to long to develop these new fonts? One reason has to do with aesthetics. Any new typeface, even today, needs to go through a series of editing cycles to determine if the design will actually fulfill its intended purpose. What looks good on pencil and paper may not pass muster when it comes to looking good in print. In the case of the Times New Roman font, there were experiments going on simultaneously. Two other Monotype fonts were being modified and tested at the same time: one was Eric Gill’s Perpetua. The other was Plantin, which was a stately old Dutch design that looks quite similar to Times, but just a little heavier. It’s still used today in many British publications. There was another other reason didn’t occur to me for a while, even as a seasoned type designer. Back in the era when type manufacturing companies were producing “new” fonts for their customers, the designers were tasked with determining the best design size and proportions to use. The 10 point a, b, or c you see on your computer monitor now, looks essentially like the exact same design when enlarged to 24 point. When type was “cut” and