Lucerne, the Pantograph Style and the Legacy of the Bees

August 14, 2008

Periodically I am called upon to identify and re-use some family artifact that has lost its meaning. Usually this is a sweet and endearing effort on the part of a family member to rekindle family ties or pride.

family crest

family crest

I do not do a lot of this type of work, but, my clients are smart, articulate and inquisitive people and their wishes are usually of interest to me. Also, because what I deal with is primarily type I gain great satisfaction on completing a job that both client and I feel is well done.

The crest at left is from a client who is getting married, this is the icon for the women of her family; “loosely the meaning is [that] Kelly females [are like] busy bees [we] make [the] best honey…

…Or, Irish women pick the best men, do the best work, and raise the best children.  or something like that.”


As I say, the crest and heraldic “thing” is not my bailiwick, but I do get a kick out of working with some arcane piece of iconography. To my surprise, we Americans have gone in for this sort of thing for a long time, making-up crests and heraldic devices for our own mongrel, North American clans.

This is a copy of her aunt’s wedding invitation, the family crest is blind embossed on it.

The invitation is french-folded and the text commercial engraving.  This means that the letters were drawn by hand mediated by a pantograph machine.  Frederick Goudy, famous American typographer, believed in the good virtues of the pantograph. But many typographers believe it to have been the death-nell for type. It is interesting to note that the same thing can be said for the popularization of the pantograph machine in stationery. It is said that the “Masterplate” system, manufactured and marketed by the Cronite company, single handedly destroyed the hand engraved social stationery industry.

The pantograph style of this invitation is Lucerne.  In the trade (stationer) we refer to this style as Gothic. Nomenclature for lettering styles in the stationery trade is not the same as with typography or other trades where lettering is used.  In commercial American engraving, this is an “in-line” example, which refers to the many strokes (or cross-hatchings) that make up the shading of the letters.  In the gun trade, this articulation of tone is called “shaded” as in the shaded roman style so popular on “London Best Guns”.

At left is a close-up of the Lucerne style from this invitation. Such fancy types are generally used for formal occasions and announcements, like weddings. When reviewing any type, it is important to remember that pre-fabricated letterforms of any kind were originally made to look like the hand drawn originals laboriously created by scribes prior to the invention of moveable type. So, it is quite natural that many lettering styles, especially the formal, fancy ones would replicate the intricate, ornate decoration of Fraktur or Black Letter from around the same time as Guttenberg’s invention (moveable type).

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