All posts in Typography

Robert Reid’s Digital Typographical Experiments on Display at Massey College

The works of Robert R. Reid, stalwart Alcuin Society member and collaborator, and occasional blogger in this space, are featured in a wonderful exhibition at the Robertson Davies Library at Massey College, the University of Toronto. I took a moment the other day to pop in to see the exhibition in person. The exhibit is the last stop in a three part traveling show curated by the Curatorial Research Project of CAUSA (Collective for Advanced & Unified Studies in the Visual Arts). Previous locations were Simon Fraser University Library and McGill University Library.

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Type is Beautiful

The variety, or even the existence, of fonts was probably not generally recognized until the the considerable offering became available on the Macintosh computer, a result of a university course that enlightened Steve Jobs. Continue Reading…

Revival Type

A Talk by Paul Shaw: On Digital Revivals of Historical Typefaces

The Alcuin Society of Canada is joining with the Sheridan Typographic Hub and the Type Directors Club and the Registered Graphic Designers to sponsor a talk by Paul Shaw — On digital revivals of historical typefaces and other letterforms.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
6:00 – 9:00 pm
At The Arts & Letters Club
14 Elm Street, Toronto

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A Stop by Gerard Brender à Brandis’s Home Studio

I visited Stratford, Ontario a few weeks back to take in a new adaptation of the Henriad called The Breath of Kings being presented at the Festival. In between plays, I chanced by Gerard Brender à Brandis’ studio located in his beautifully restored Greek Revival Saltbox cottage near the town’s main street.

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Report from the Alcuin Society AGM

The Alcuin Society held its 2016 Annual General Meeting on June 6 at the University Golf Club on the UBC campus in Vancouver. The event was well attended.  Beautiful Alcuin Prize winning books were on display. There was also a silent book auction that attracted many members to bid and raised money for the Alcuin endowment. Continue Reading…

Mesmerized by the beautiful hands: The Barbarian Press film

The film goes by at a deliberate pace, like the venerable craft practised by Jan and Crispin Elsted. Which is interesting because the filmmaker Sarah Race is so young. Sarah was a one-person film crew and the Elsteds said in the Q&A after the screening that she’d taken the time to blend into press activities so that they forgot she was there. And it shows: we are intimately close to Crispin as he gathers a sequence of type between his fingers, and to Jan when she adjusts the press with a huge wrench. The abiding images for me are the closeups of the lovely, capable hands of these two craftspeople as they lovingly perform their work. Sarah’s trailer generously offers some of the most memorable moments  from the film. Continue Reading…

Typefaces for dyslexics

There are so many things we take for granted: birds and sunrises, health and friends, planet Earth and internet, etc. Enjoying a book at our leisure is a no-brainer for most of us, but there are those who go through great pains and frustrations to read a short paragraph. It is reassuring to see that society has not forgotten them completely (or maybe it was just those who struggle with this disorder, or are close to somebody who does). A series of typefaces was created in order to help those who have trouble reading. One of those is Dyslexie, which may look like a nightmare for most type designers, but this matters less if it can help even one person.


The glyphs of Dyslexie look deformed to our eyes: they are heavier at the bottom, as if in an attempt to anchor them on the page. It tries to eliminate some of the features that confuse dyslexics, such as the similarity and uniformity between letters, so letters like b and d are not mirrored images of each other. On the contrary, the bowls of the letters, and their ascenders and descenders are all distorted. They have different heights and proportions, and they stand slightly further apart, so they do not look so compact any more.

Dyslexie is a free font and was developed by Dutch designer Christian Boer. The comparison between it and a regular font shown on the Dyslexie main page is very interesting. Paradoxically, it also contradicts the basic rules of type design.

Two other similar typefaces are OpenDyslexic and DysLex.

SFU Lecture: The Printing Room @ St. Michael’s College

We’ve received word from SFU of an upcoming lecture that will surely be of interest to print historians and bibliophiles alike! Jonathan Bengtson will be giving a presentation at SFU Burnaby campus on the the Printing Room at St. Michael’s College. Here is a PDF advertising the event, and below are all the details you need to know. To whet your appetite, I highly recommend that you download the background reading material from

The Printing Room: The John M. Kelley Library
. University of Toronto: 2009

Please RSVP for the event as requested below. We hope to see you there!

Friday, October 26, 2012
4:30pm to 6:00pm
Room 2020 – Thesis Defence Room
W.A.C. Bennett Library
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC

Jonathan Bengtson has served as University Librarian at the University of Victoria since January 2012. Prior to his appointment at Victoria, he served as director of library and archives at the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, as well as the library director for the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies (PIMS), one of the most important libraries for medievalists in North America.

He trained as a medievalist at Oxford and has been director of academic and special libraries in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Before arriving at the University of Toronto in 2004, Bengtson was head librarian of The Queen’s College, Oxford, and, afterwards, the executive director of the Providence Athenaeum in Providence, Rhode Island.

While at St. Michael’s, Bengtson played a key role in the establishment of the St. Michael’s Print Room. The Room features five hand-presses, including the 1895 Reliance press that is in the foyer of the library; it has binding equipment; an extensive collection of type, including ornaments from the Toronto firm of Cooper and Beatty, woodcuts and wood type; and pedagogical material, including unusual books as well as documents in Braille. The Room has played a critical role in supporting the teaching of book history and material bibliography. Bengtson’s lecture will speak to issues related to the creation of the Print Room and its impact on teaching and learning.

Refreshments following lecture.
Free Admission – limited seating – please reserve a seat by calling 778.782.6704 or emailing library at
For further information contact:
Chuck Eckman, Dean, Library Services
Tel: 778.782.3265

2013 Robert R Reid Award Winner Announced

Last night at the Alcuin Awards in Toronto, it was formally announced that William Rueter, RCA MGDC, fine press printer and founder of the Aliquando Press will be the 2013 recipient of the Robert R. Reid Award for Achievement in the Book Arts in Canada.

William Rueter RCA MGDC is a private printer, hand binder, and printmaker living in Dundas, Ontario. He studied at the City Literary Institute, London, England, and the Ontario College of Art. From 1965 to 1998 he worked as a graphic designer specializing in book design, including employment as Senior Designer at the University of Toronto Press.

He established his private press, The Aliquando Press, in 1963, producing more than 100 books and many broadsides to date. The Press reflects Rueter’s interests in graphic design, typography, calligraphy, music, and a wide variety of poetry and literature. Work of The Aliquando Press won an honorary diploma at the Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt exhibition in Leipzig in 1987 and a bronze medal at the Internationale Buchkunstausstellung 1989.

Work of the Press has been shown throughout North America and in Japan and is included in public and private North American and European collections, including the Toronto, New York, and San Francisco public libraries; the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg; the British Library; and the Museum van het Boek, the Hague.

Rueter has taught graphic design and bookbinding in Canada and graphic design in Barbados and the Philippines. He explores the media of wood engraving and linocut in some of his own books and is challenged by the technique of monoprint. As a printmaker, bookbinder, and graphic designer he has been in solo and group shows in Dundas, Hamilton, and Toronto. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art and is a past nominee for the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the Crafts.

Congratulations, William! The award will be presented in the spring of 2013 in Vancouver, BC.

THE { New / Old } BOOK: A Symposium on the Printed and Electronic Book

The Alcuin Society is pleased to announce that this year, the presentation of our Annual Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be part of a special one day symposium dedicated to printed and electronic book.

Thursday October 18, 2012
Library Square, Vancouver Public Library
Conference starts 9 am, awards presentation ends 9 pm

Headlining our symposium is celebrated designer Chip Kidd, who will be the featured presenter of The Alcuin Society 2011 Book Design Awards. Mr. Kidd lives in New York City and Stonington, Connecticut. He is the co-author and designer of the two-time Eisner award-winning book Batman Animated. His book jacket designs for Alfred A. Knopf, where he is associate art director, have helped spark a revolution in the art of American book packaging. His new book is Batman: Death by Design.

In addition, we will have eight other speakers addressing the state of the art of the book.

  • Marian Bantjes, is a designer, artist and writer working internationally from her base on a small island off the west coast of British Columbia, near Vancouver. Marian is known for her custom typography, detailed and lovingly precise vector art, her obsessive hand work, her patterning and ornament. She was an Alcuin judge in our competition for the year 2009, and she will speak on ornamentation in books.
  • Peter Cocking will speak on the life of a book designer. He has since 2002 focused on book and typographic design as the art director of D&M Publishers, the publishers of Douglas & McIntyre and Greystone Books. Peter is the recipient of more than 40 awards for his design work, and as art director has led D&M to more design awards than any other Canadian publisher.
  • Crispin Elsted of Barbarian Press, one of the finest private presses in Canada and perhaps all the world, will speak on the subject of private press printing. Barbarian Press was established in 1977 in Kent, England, where Jan & Crispin Elsted worked with Graham Williams at the Florin Press. They returned to their native Canada in 1978 and set up shop in Mission, British Columbia, about 50 miles east of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.
  • Selma Zafar is a senior user experience designer at OpenRoad Communications in Vancouver, with over 10 years experience in designing innovative and usable software and hardware. She will speak to the usability of the printed book.
  • Eric Menninga has over 20 years of experience programming software for the Macintosh and PC. Currently a developer at Amazon, he was previously with Adobe Systems, Inc. for 19 years. He will speak on the technology of ebooks.
  • Shelley Gruendler, a graphic designer, typographer, and a recent addition to the Alcuin Society board, is the founding director of Type Camp. Shelley holds a PhD and an MA in The History and Theory of Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading, England and a Bachelor of Environmental Design in Graphic Design from North Carolina State University, USA. She will speak on typography in the historical book.
  • Kevin Larson is Researcher Microsoft Advanced Reading Technologies. He received his PhD in cognitive psychology in 2000 from the University of Texas at Austin. His academic research was on word recognition and reading acquisition. Among other speaking engagements, he has spoken at ATypI 2003 in Vancouver, at ATypI 2007 in Brighton, and at ATypI 2009 in Mexico City. His presentation will discuss the science of reading ebooks.

This event will feature the live music of Paul Gregory.

The Alcuin Society Annual Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada is the only national competition of its kind that recognizes and celebrates the art of book design in Canada. The Society is very proud of its winners, who represent Canada at the international exhibits and competition at the Frankfurt and Leipzig Book Fairs held annually in Germany, among other exhibition venues around the world.

The Alcuin Society invites you to join us in celebrating the 30th anniversary of its awards with this day-long symposium, THE { New / Old } BOOK. Extra special thanks go to Shelley Gruendler for her key role coordinating this event, the scope of which is without precedent in the history of our awards. This diverse gathering of minds is sure to be enlightening experience you won’t want to miss!

Alcuin Society Members + Students: $100 / Public: $150

The Alcuin Society’s Symposium of the Book October 18, 2012

For those wishing to pay by cash or cheque, please email to make arrangements.

We recommend early registration, as spaces are limited.

Update! 25 new student tickets have been released for sale!

Click here for a PDF Flyer.

For more information, contact