Detail map of London, England, United Kingdom Overview map of London, England, United Kingdom

A: London, England, United Kingdom

Bruce Rogers Creates Monotype Centaur


In 1929 American book designer and typographer Bruce Rogers, then on a sojourn in London, and the Lanston Monotype Corporation of London first published the Centaur types, and and new cutting of the Arrighi Italic types designed by Frederick Warde in a 14-page small folio type specimen printing of a text by Alfred W. Pollard entitled The Trained Printer and the Amateur: and the Pleasure of Small Books. To this brief text Rogers prefixed a "Printer's Note." Pollard's essay was followed by type specimens of Centaur from 72 point to 10 point. The cover in 72 point Centaur read: New Series of the Centaur Types of Bruce Rogers and the Arrighi Italics of Frederick Warde. Cut by Monotype and here first used to print a paper by Alfred W. Pollard.

Regarding the development of Centaur Rogers wrote in his "Printer's Note":

"The type known as 'Montaigne,' for which I had been largely responsible, had met his [Pollard's] warm approbation; for in those days we all liked heavier and cruder types than our reconsideration of the matter now leads some of us to prefer. It may be that I reacted earlier than most from the types made popular in the nineties by the so-called revival of printing; at any rate the Montaigne type soon seemed to me unsatisfactory, and I began to consider means for improving upon it; but for one reason or another it was nearly ten years later that actual work upon a refinement of it was accomplished, in the type which is now known as 'Centaur.'

"In the meantime I had had the good fortune to come into possession of a copy of Jenson's 'Eusebius' of 1470, supposedly the first of the folios printed in his Roman letter, and the only one I have ever seen in which his type appears in all its delicate crispness of cutting and casting—a marvel of accuracy for those times.

"When portions of the clearest page in my copy were enlarged to about five times the original size I was at once struck by the pen-like characteristics of the lower-case letters; so with a flat pen cut to the width of the heavier lines, I wrote on the photographic print as rapidly as I could, thus preserving the proportions, at least, of Jenson's own characters. Being but an indifferent calligrapher many of my letters were rather crudely done, but I selected those that seemed to be the most successful and touched them up somewhat with pen and brush; and these, with capitals drawn with a pointed pen over photographs of the originals, served as models for the first cutting of the Centaur type.

"The close approximation to Jenson's type attained by these means leads me to hazard the theory that Jenson, having been director of the mint at Tours, was probably quite conversant with the roman capital forms; but when he embarked in the printing business at Venice and needed a model for his lower-case letters he selected what seemed to him the finest humanistic writing at hand and copied it as faithfully as possible with graver and punch.

"It will be seen that no claim for originality can be put forward for my type; neither is it an accurate reproduction of Jenson's letter. Having no reputation to maintain as a designer of type I have endeavoured only to produce a clear and legible letter that may be used in printing either ancient or modern works without attracting undue attention to itself."

Besides the specimen in printed wrappers, Rogers also issued a few copies in a buckram binding with a special gilt Centaur design and the letters "Centaur & Arrighi" stamped on the upper cover. The copy of that version in my library has the original printed wrappers of the regular specimen bound in.

Using his Centaur types during his London sojourn Rogers designed two of his greatest masterpieces: the T. E. Lawrence translation of Homer's Odyssey printed by Emery Walker Ltd in 1932, and the Oxford Lectern Bible (1935).

Timeline Themes

Related Entries