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Morris Fuller Benton (revival)
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Bulmer is the name given to a serif typeface originally designed by punchcutter William Martin around 1790 for the Shakespeare Press, run by William Bulmer (1757–1830). The types were used for printing the Boydell Shakespeare folio edition.
Bulmer is considered to be a late "transitional" face. Faces in this style, which became most common in the mid to late eighteenth century, were more crisply engraved than earlier faces. William Martin's typefaces show strong influence of the Baskerville typeface of John Baskerville which popularised this style in England, but with more contrast, bolder, narrower and with sharper serifs. His brother John Martin had worked as Baskerville's foreman and William Martin probably worked for him too. They also show influence of the crisp new "modern" faces, now called Didones, increasingly popular on the continent. The typeface used "modern" figures, a recent innovation, at nearly capital-height. Although Bulmer wrote in his preface to his edition of Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell that Martin would in future be able to offer a specimen of his typefaces, he is not known to have ever issued one. However, they were also used by the Liverpool printer John McCreery and his successor G.F. Harris, who did issue a specimen book in 1807.
The Bulmer typeface fell out of interest due to changing tastes in the early nineteenth century following the death of William Martin in 1815, but returned to interest in the twentieth century, when several revival versions were released. In this period, D. B. Updike described Martin's types as "delicate and spirited" and Stanley Morison described it as "a variation on the Baskerville theme".
Bulmer's distinguishing characters are an uppercase R with a curved tail. Lowercase g has a small bowl and a curved ear; a heavier stroke weight on the lower right side of the bowl contributes to a sense of that character leaning backwards. Uppercase italic characters J, K, N, T and Y have flourishes reminiscent of Baskerville's. The resulting face could show off the high quality of printing technology of the time: James Mosley has described Bulmer's editions: "The type was, however, only one ingredient in the ensemble which Bulmer managed to striking success...the good ink, the consistently good presswork and the superb Whatman paper are combined in one of the few really successful English attempts at printing in the grand manner."
A contemporary digital revival (shown above right), supervised by Robin Nicholas at Monotype Imaging is based on the 1928 revival by Morris Fuller Benton. It features text and display optical sizes and oldstyle and lining figures.
For Martin to emulate [Baskerville's] style as closely as he did was a conservative move. His type is both bolder and narrower than Baskerville's, and the italic is looser and bulges curiously, but it bears a closer resemblance to its original than [earlier imitations by] either Fry's or Wilson's.
As it first appeared in 1923, Morris Benton’s version of the William Martin original faithfully reproduced the fonts used by Bulmer in setting the foreword to his Poems by Goldsmith and Parnell published in 1795. The figures in these fonts were in modern form but scarcely higher than the middles of the lowercase in height, a circumstance which proved a definite limitation in modern display for all of its attractiveness in a page by Bulmer.
The whole of the Types, with which this work has been printed, are executed by Mr. William Martin...who is at this time forming a Foundry, by which he will shortly be enabled to offer to the world a Specimen of Types, that will in a very eminent degree unite utility, elegance, and beauty.
The design was introduced in 1937 for the Nonesuch Press edition of the works of Dickens, and is available only in 11 and 12-point. Lining figures only are available.
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