Type Tuesday: Gepetto is Inspired By Wooden Type and Pinocchio

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Everyone loves the story of Pinocchio; you know the tale, the sweet wooden puppet who has a pesky problem of too obviously lying his way through life in the efforts of becoming a “real boy.” It’s a classic, but more than that, a story that shares the truth behind what’s right and wrong. 

Inspired by the Tuscan family’s rich history and intricate design, Zetafonts, the independent type foundry based in Italy, created a typeface dubbed Geppetto. Geppetto, of course, gets named after the character in Carlo Collodi’s well-known Pinocchio. But in some ways, it feels like the perfect way to honor the history of wood-type letterforms, as Gepetto carved Pinocchio from wood. 

While we have decades of typography playing out in the digital age to look back on, typography was also once ruled by wooden tools and techniques. First, the block print was used in China, dating back to the Tang and Song dynasties. Later, Europe adopted its own version, using large letters carved from wood to print. Essentially, the printers of yesterday used wood because it’s lightweight, widely available, and easier to work with than metal type. 

In 1828, mass-producing letters became available in New York when Darius Wells created the first wood type catalog that outlined the pros of using wooden type. Wells also invented the lateral router, providing better control when cutting type and reducing the time it took to carve each letter. Previously, the letters were drawn on wood and then cut out with a knife by hand. 

Inspired by wood type, Geppetto comes in four weights with even better names—True, Small Lie, Medium Lie, and Big Lie. It also has many features, including case-sensitive forms, standard ligatures, fractions, and a few stylistic sets. It’s fascinating to see how Zetafonts has kept the magic of wooden type alive through the digital age, especially keeping it readable and adaptable while managing to keep it feeling traditional. 

Geppetto started as a project meant to bring the Tuscan typeface family back to life. The original design of the font was thought to have come from an 1859 typeface by William Hamilton Page. Further, Tuscan was used by Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini as a primary outline of how to create and design a variable typeface on a wide axis.

And in true Pinocchio fashion, it’s the hard and fast truth that this typeface beautifully blends the rich history of typography’s past while instilling ideal thought to make this a font for the digital age. Even Jiminy Cricket would agree.