Where Did Our Newspaper Typeface Come From?

Renowned Scholar David Ganz discusses "Where Did Our Newspaper Typeface Come From?"
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Renowned Scholar David Ganz discusses "Where Did Our Newspaper Typeface Come From?"

Presenter: Renowned Scholar David Ganz

May 3, 2023
6 to 7:30 p.m.
Paleography and the Book Lecture
David Rubenstein Forum, University A

Well-versed in the history of Latin script, David Ganz explores the origins of influential scripts such as Caroline minuscule and Italian Humanistic, showing how they served as models for the typefaces like Times New Roman that we know and use today. He discusses how transformative changes in script and typography have changed history.

In the later Middle Ages, Italian humanists rejected the gothic script used to copy manuscripts and adopted littera antiqua, a script used in twelfth-century Italy. First used in the reign of Charlemagne at the end of the eighth century, this script transformed the appearance of letters on the page.

In 1932, The Times newspaper in London changed its typeface. British typographer Stanley Morison created Times New Roman, which The Times adapted, and it rapidly became the most influential typeface in the world.

The University of Chicago and the Division of the Humanities have long been committed to the proposition that a thorough understanding of original sources, the languages in which they were communicated, the means through which they were presented, and the contexts in which they arose are the indispensable tools of humanistic inquiry. This commitment is reflected throughout the division and its history—in its production of outstanding critical editions, its belief in the importance of studying and preserving languages from across history and the globe, and its insistence that scholars and students must have deep command of and respect for the primary sources and the conditions in which they were created.

Understanding the history of what is called the “visible world” in all its forms is integral to this conception of humanistic learning and research. Unfortunately, nowadays these aspects of study are often downplayed in the university curriculum. This history encompasses scholarly fields such as manuscript studies of the Bible and its reception, papyri in ancient Mediterranean civilizations, illuminated manuscripts of the medieval era, the development of printing and the flowering of print culture, and the practices of readers, among many others.

Studying this history enriches human beings’ understanding of a wide range of humanistic themes, including how ideas take shape and are transmitted over time, the development and circulation of religious beliefs and practices, and the social conditions in which science develops.

David Ganz

David Ganz

David Ganz writes extensively about early Medieval Latin manuscripts. From 1980 to 1997, he taught in the Department of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and then Ganz was appointed as Professor of Palaeography in the University of London at King’s College from 1997 to 2010. He has also taught at the Ecole des Chartes in Paris and as Visiting Professor at the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame. Ganz has held research fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton and the Department of Manuscripts of the Staatsbibliothek Preussische Kulturbesitz in Berlin. 

His publications include Corbie in the Carolingian Renaissance (1990) and the introduction to Two Lives of Charlemagne (2008), and chapters in the New Cambridge Medieval History Volume II (2015), the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain (2019), the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006), the New Cambridge History of the Bible, and the Oxford Handbook of Latin Palaeography (2020). In 2011, Ganz gave the E.A. Lowe lectures at the University of Oxford

He is a Vice President of the Henry Bradshaw Society and was elected a member of the Comité international de paléographie latine in 2000 and a Corresponding Member of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica in 2016.