• PrintMag

Scotch Modern

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 SHAW

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