Scotch Roman, beloved by D.B.
Updike and W.A. Dwiggins, was a standard in the typographic repertoire
of pre–World War II printers but fell out of favor after the war,
supplanted by Bodoni. Nick Shinn of Shinntype has made a bid to
resurrect this oft-maligned face with Scotch Modern.
Scotch Modern is
not a revival of the familiar Scotch Roman of Linotype and Monotype, but
of a more modern design attributed to George Bruce, the great
19th-century New York punchcutter. Shinn used a sample of the face from
the New York State Cabinet of Natural History’s 23rd Annual Report
for the Year 1869 (printed in 1873) as a model. He drew it by eye, aided
by a sharp loupe: no photographic enlargements, no scans, no tracing.
The ends of the strokes are slightly rounded, to capture the effect of
metal type being impressed into soft paper.
Shinn contends that the
19th-century Scotch types were “eminently readable” and a
factor in the rise of modern literacy. His rendition, an OpenType font,
aims for readability in all situations with display, regular, and
microtype versions. The display roman includes a unicase font—a
nod to Bradbury Thompson’s Alphabet 26 experiment—and the
italic has elegant swash caps.
Scotch Roman has never been a face for
those seeking eternal beauty or anyone desperate for typographic kicks.
Dwiggins gave it a 10 for legibility (where 10 was “reasonable
human perfection”) but only 4 for grace and 0 for novelty.
Shinn’s Scotch Modern, with its many OpenType extras, scores well
on all three counts. It’s a face for those who prefer a mature
single malt: simple at first, but more complex as it is savored. PAUL