|Cloister Light Face-Specimen sheet from the Dale Guild|
The Cloister family of faces was designed by Morris Fuller Benton, an influential type designer known for having completed 221 typefaces in the early 20th century. All of his typefaces were produced by American Type Founders, the dominant American manufacturer of metal type for most of the twentieth century. Benton headed the design department at ATF and was their chief type designer from 1900 to 1937.
Cloister Old Style and Cloister Italic, believed to be the earliest in the series, were both completed in 1913 and were based on Venetian typefaces from the late 15th century. Cloister Old Style was modeled after a face created by Nicolas Jenson in 1470, while Cloister Italic was based on a 1501 typeface designed by Aldus Manutius.
Most of Cloister’s original 9 typefaces were completed in the early 1900s, with one of the last (Cloister Cursive Handtooled) completed in 1926 by Benton in collaboration with Charles H. Becker. Cloister Black, the typeface seen on the right (and which the Center for Book Arts also has in its collection), may have been an even earlier member of the Cloister family (it was finished in 1904 and was adapted from the 1870s Priory Text), but its artist has been disputed and credit is often given to Joseph W. Phinney.
|Some early Venetian Typefaces|
Unlike last week’s bold headliner Cheltenham, many of the styles in the Cloister font family are perfect for the main text of a book or sign. Clean, smooth, and easily readable, Cloister has a delicate serif that gives it a historical but not old-fashioned feel. Whether one uses the original, light, or bold variations, Cloister is a versatile face that can still be used in novels and websites today. In fact, according to Alexander Lawson’s Anatomy of a Typeface (a recommended read for anyone interested in the history and artistry of type), although Cloister has become less popular than more modern Venetian-inspired typefaces, it remains particularly popular in advertising and periodicals, and its boldface version has been used for headlines in local newspapers.
The Cloister family also has the advantage of having some very bold and ornate variations, including Cloister Black and Cloister Initials. Both of these typefaces take the old-style quality of the original Cloister to the extreme, giving us letters fit to begin passages in Bibles or 17th-century sonnet sequences. As today is Valentine’s Day, the Cloister typefaces might just be the most suitable for the hand-printed love poems you’ve been writing!
Join us next week as we explore another typeface, and wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us here at the Center for Book Arts!
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