concept to publication

Vatican type

Yesterday I showed some ancient inscribed letterforms from Ostia Antica. Today we flash forward some seventeen hundred years to this inscription over a gate in the Vatican complex, which is dated 1831.

I don’t like this one so much. Whoever inscribed these letters was clearly working from typeset models. But the thin lines, right angles, and sharp serifs of the Romantic period are the result of developments in typesetting equipment and papermaking that have nothing to do with letterforms inscribed in stone.

These kinds of incongruities often result when work in one medium is transferred to another without consideration for the essential character of the medium.


Classical letterforms from Ostia


How to improve your writing (and your love life)


  1. You certainly have an interesting field. My stepfather was a printer and could pick defects in a typeface at a glance. It took me a while to get the hang of it.

  2. I remember when I first started studying calligraphy. It was a revelation to study the original letterforms as opposed to their more modern versions. Do you know about Edward Catich? He did a letter by letter study of Roman letter froms from the Trajan Column and produced the templates that every calligrapher worth the name should study.

Some rights reserved 2022 Right Reading. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via