Did you like the giant S from French Vogue Kirsten pointed out a few weeks ago? Us too!
This style of type is called Tuscan and it originated well before printing. Tuscans can be identified by bifurcation of the terminals — some have speculated that the bifurcation in the earliest examples may have been a typographic equivalent of the sign of the fish, an attempt to signify Christian faith in the letters themselves. Tuscans really hit their stride in the 19th century, during the age of handbills (each trying to outdo one another in typographic excess). This is when the form started mutating like crazy: the ends trifurcated, bulges or spikes erupted mid-stem, letters split into two, swashes and flourishes sprouted out.
Tuscans can be extended or condensed, rigid or expressive: some of the newer digital ones are hand-rendered. So versatile a type style, it’s a shame it’s rarely used contemporarily outside of circus- or western- themed work.
Frisco Antique Display – monoline and thin with an even thinner hairline drop shadow, this face is about as elegant as tuscans can get.
Rendezvous – inspired by a Ben Shahn lettering style; he’s honestly one of the best letterers ever.
LeKing – Eduardo Recife of Misprinted Type, with one of the keenest eyes for detailed, incredible grunge, has frankensteined together this type letter by letter. Not only are no two letters alike (though they pair together very well) but he’s drawn two versions of each letter.
Figgins Tuscan – a digitization of the first Tuscan to ever be cut to metal type, in 1817.
Loza – hand-rendered and askew, this one has a lot of quirky charm.
Missionary – I’m not sure this experimental typeface—built entirely of type ornaments and flourishes—is technically a Tuscan, but it’s definitely interesting.
Gold Standard – This is one of the examples of how ornamentation can just erupt from the Tuscan form. It even has a top-half open and fill version for two-toned printing.
Opera House – bold, straightforward. I would put this on the marquee of an auto parts shop in a flash.
Gringo Tuscan – a geometric megafamily model that has light, medium and bold; narrow and wide. Plus, a slab and sans in addition to the Tuscan version.
De Louisville – This one has some lovely unicase letters, and that awesome horizontal emphasis that is found in Victoriana and Hebrew.
Old Vic – many Tuscans are all-uppercase; this is an example of one with a full character set. It’s probably the only Tuscan I would use to set entire paragraphs. Plus, at this scale the rounded bifurcated terminals look sort of bone-like: if you have a spooky children’s book, here’s your type.
Catacumba – this new release from Fountain — which has a coordinating latin serif as well — was the inspiration for this whole roundup.