Scotch Modern

Posted inDesign Resources
Thumbnail for Bill Blackbeard's Final Splash Panel

Scotch Roman, beloved by D.B.Updike and W.A. Dwiggins, was a standard in the typographic repertoireof pre–World War II printers but fell out of favor after the war,supplanted by Bodoni. Nick Shinn of Shinntype has made a bid toresurrect this oft-maligned face with Scotch Modern.

Scotch Modern is not a revival of the familiar Scotch Roman of Linotype and Monotype, butof a more modern design attributed to George Bruce, the great19th-century New York punchcutter. Shinn used a sample of the face fromthe New York State Cabinet of Natural History’s 23rd Annual Reportfor the Year 1869 (printed in 1873) as a model. He drew it by eye, aidedby a sharp loupe: no photographic enlargements, no scans, no tracing.The ends of the strokes are slightly rounded, to capture the effect ofmetal type being impressed into soft paper.

Shinn contends that the 19th-century Scotch types were “eminently readable” and afactor in the rise of modern literacy. His rendition, an OpenType font,aims for readability in all situations with display, regular, andmicrotype versions. The display roman includes a unicase font—anod to Bradbury Thompson’s Alphabet 26 experiment—and theitalic 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 “reasonablehuman perfection”) but only 4 for grace and 0 for novelty.Shinn’s Scotch Modern, with its many OpenType extras, scores wellon all three counts. It’s a face for those who prefer a maturesingle malt: simple at first, but more complex as it is savored.