The 1887 specimen book by Palmer & Rey (San Francisco) displays two pages of letters composed from star-shaped units. As the footer states, there is «but ONE CHARACTER to the font», i.e. the purchasable bundle (the font) contains multiples of only one single shape, either black or white stars.
The self-evidently named «Illimitable Border.» displayed in H. W. Caslon & Co.’s 1915 «Specimens of Types & Borders and Illustrated Catalogue of Printers’ Joinery and Materials» consists of 39 combinable units — a dot matrix design on a 4 × 4 grid — enabling the compositor to form pixel-like decoration of varying complexity. The catalogue showcases a selection of these inexhaustible permutations aside the respective elements in use.
Ported from the collection «Corpus typographique français» at the Musée de l’imprimerie et de la communication graphique Lyon, «La vignette Décor» is the licensed casting of Schrifguss A.G. vorm. Brüder Butter’s «Dekora» (ca. 1930) by the Fonderie Typographique Française.
Currently the following sets of non-alphabets are available for free download:
Crochet Type No. 2
Star Letter Combination
The Illimitable Border
Digital typefaces with their strict linear arrangement proofed to be impractical in emulating the properties of analogue typesetting. Instead of font software, the vector elements are provided as Symbols in Adobe Illustrator, making the Symbol palette a typecase-like container to be picked from.
The grid alignment of the elements in combination with the fundamental transformation of 90 or 180 degree rotation makes for a rather satisfying sensation close to the gestural simplicity of handsetting type.
We hope these non-alphabets are to your delight and would be pleased to receive in-use samples at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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These files are provided under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, enabling the use for non-commercial projects under the condition of explicit attribution to the authors. For other licensing options get in touch via email@example.com.
The provided files are compatible with Adobe Illustrator v15 and newer. We do not offer support of any kind for the use of those files — an introduction to working with Symbols in Adobe Illustrator can be found here.
This weblog is the digital paroxysm of our ongoing investigations on typographic auxiliaries of non-alphabetic nature. Initially conducted for an exhibition at Gallery R21 in Oslo/Norway, the fascination for the sheer infinite potential of these typographic gems made wider investigations inevitable.
Sharing the physical properties required for letterpress printing, the umbrella term non-alphabets gathers a vast variety of paraphernalia such as ornaments, borders, geometric elements, modular illustrations, vignettes and stock images — in brief: all typographic units that do not bear alphabetic signs.
This platform catalogues historical sources and highlights typographic artists that use non-alphabetic material as an essential part in their design work. Furthermore we give insight into our own digital renditions as well as access to a set of non-alphabets for the purpose of hands-on experimentation.
Ellmer Stefan || Johannes Lang